The Ending to Kirsten Dunst's Shocking “Civil War ”Explained

Nick Offerman — who plays the president in 'Civil War' — tells PEOPLE that the movie is able to "transcend any specific political narrative"

<p>Murray Close</p> Kirsten Dunst and Cailee Spaeny in A24

Murray Close

Kirsten Dunst and Cailee Spaeny in A24's 'Civil War'

This story contains spoilers for Civil War, now playing in theaters.

Kirsten Dunst's new movie Civil War has fought its way into theaters, bringing a provocative vision of a war-torn United States in the modern day.

The movie follows Dunst, 41, as a veteran Reuters photojournalist named Lee, who along with her colleagues Joel (Wagner Moura) and Sammy (Stephen McKinley Henderson) makes plans to travel from New York City to Washington, D.C. during the final days of a modern civil war as multiple rebellious factions close in on the nation's capital. Their goal: secure an interview with the U.S. president (played by Nick Offerman) before his government is toppled.

After Lee meets aspiring young war photographer Jessie (Cailee Spaeny) outside a dangerous protest-turned-attack in N.Y.C., the group agrees to bring her along and sets about navigating a dangerous Eastern seaboard, taking roundabout routes to D.C. and trying to avoid conflict along the way.

Civil War elicited significant attention from audiences when its trailer released in December 2023 for its dystopian vision of the United States. The president in the film is in the midst of an unprecedented third term and opposed by at least two rebellious groups, the Western Forces and Florida Alliance, with trailers noting that 19 states seceded from the union as part of the conflict.

Related: Kirsten Dunst Documents a Divided America — Under a President Nick Offerman — in Shocking Civil War Trailer

<p>A24</p> Kirsten Dunst in A24's 'Civil War'


Kirsten Dunst in A24's 'Civil War'

Little information is given throughout writer-director Alex Garland's film on how a modern civil war in broke out. The movie instead focuses on the effects the conflict has on Lee, Joel, Sammy and Jessie, as well as soldiers fighting in the war itself. "None of the things you're getting upset about or speculating about, they're not in the movie," Offerman, 53, recently told PEOPLE.

In one instance, the group is confronted by a group of soldiers (one is played by Dunst's real-life husband Jesse Plemons) who the journalists encounter as they dig a mass grave. Plemons' character threatens Lee and her friends and takes little care for Joel's insistence that they are all on the same side, asking, "What kind of American are you?"

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<p>A24</p> A24's 'Civil War'


A24's 'Civil War'

The group barely escape with their lives; they walk away from the encounter unsure what side Plemons and his group of soldiers were even fighting for in the first place.

Ultimately, Lee, Joel and Sammy encounter a group of reporters embedded with the Western Forces in Charlottesville, Virginia, as they prepare for a final march into Washington, D.C.. The characters follow this faction's soldiers as they fight all the way to the White House and capture the president, who begs Joel to prevent the soldiers from killing him before he is executed. The film's credits roll as Jessie's photos of the horrific moment develop.

Related: Kirsten Dunst Says Her Civil War Scene with Husband Jesse Plemons Is 'One of the Craziest Things I've Ever Seen'

<p>Murray Close</p> Nick Offerman in A24's 'Civil War'

Murray Close

Nick Offerman in A24's 'Civil War'

Civil War does not expand further on Offerman's president character, instead focusing on those who document a pivotal fictional moment in the nation's history. Offerman even recently told PEOPLE that the film has "no need to answer the question of villainy or not because that's in the eye of the beholder."

"There is some fascism into that, which we've generally come to know in world history doesn't usually signify a good person, but presidents, politicians are complicated," he says. "But the thing I love perhaps the most about the movie is [Garland's] ability to transcend any specific political narrative because it doesn't matter It doesn't matter what party that guy is or who did what to whom: the movie is about what we are doing, what us dumb earthlings are doing if we're not careful."

Civil War is in theaters now.

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