As Prime Minister Theresa May attempts to negotiate the best Brexit deal for the United Kingdom new Channel 4 drama ‘Brexit: The Uncivil War’ takes a focused look at just how the ‘Vote Leave’ campaign, lead by political advisor and strategist Dominic Cummings, won the 2016 Referendum. Helmed by television director Toby Haynes and starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Cummings this TV film boasts some brilliant British talent but is it successful in capturing the drama of one of the countries most revolutionary periods in political history?
Well, it’s certainly a fascinating insight into what went on behind the scenes of the media’s coverage & representation of the leave and remain campaigns. It showcases how politics has developed over time highlighting the importance of technology and social media in particular. It’s really intriguing as the narrative demonstrates how each campaign breaks down the population into different categories of voters, what affects their choices and how they are going to target them. Furthermore, it thoughtfully explains the motivations of both sides of voters including a wide range of individuals feeling representative of the population as a whole. Some may accuse the film of being bias as its spotlight is firmly on Cummings and his ‘Vote Leave’ campaign, however this drama sets out to outline just how this campaign won and not a fully encompassing picture of two rival campaigns. As a result the greater attention given to ‘Vote Leave’ is completely warranted in this instance and offers a consistently engaging insight into this recent history. With that in mind though no drama covering as detailed a period of history as this will ever be completely factually accurate and it should be watched with caution and skepticism however what it so brilliantly achieves is capturing the inescapable social and political chaos that the referendum caused.
Cumberbatch and Haynes have previously worked together on BBC’s hugely popular drama series ‘Sherlock’ and this reunion has facilitated Cumberbatch with another great leading performance. He’s a powerful dramatic force as Dominic Cummings, excelling in conveying his unorthodox personality and pursuit of perfection amongst his own campaign. It’s only really Cummings who is focused on in terms of characters and even then he feels more like a central focus to drive the narrative forward instead of being present for audiences to invest in as well. Nonetheless his supporting cast are good with the portrayals of the better known MPs standing out the most. Those performing as the likes of Nigel Farage (Paul Ryan) and Boris Johnson (Richard Goulding) look and sound the part achieving a great likeness to these more prominent politicians. Although much of the attempts at comedy come at the expense of these individuals. Largely this is their own fault, and it has to be admitted that often this comedy lands for example in one instance Johnson exclaims “I’ve no idea” when asked a question. However this overall, more cartoonish presentation might be somewhat problematic in dismissing their influence during the referendum. Nonetheless the investigation into these public figures does reveal how little they really had to do with the more vital elements to the campaign. Instead the film shows that those un-elected members of staff who were making budget projections and political promises despite never being in a position to implement or deliver on these were the ones with the real power and control.
‘Brexit: The Uncivil War’ is an entertaining crash course into the cause of the current state of politics in the country today. It makes the content of its narrative accessible to audiences regardless of the extent of their political knowledge and it will act as a springboard for many people’s own personal investigation into these campaigns and their most important players. It asks moral and ethical questions of those directly involved and will prove as an informative and captivating piece of drama delivered in a wonderfully timely fashion.
Written by Hamish Calvert
Rating – 8/10
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