And it’s another rave! He also defends it saying it’s not too soon to do films about Brexit (that’s what artists do: to make sense of things that are happening!) but that yes, it’s very brave because they would always receive flack for it.
And The Radio Times posed Butcher’s review online:
REVIEW by David Butcher Dominic Cummings is not a household name, but he should be. He was the “career sociopath” who led the Vote Leave campaign to victory in the 2016 Brexit referendum, and this is the inside story of that campaign, with Benedict Cumberbatch, who knows a thing or two about playing cerebral, as Cummings.
His Cummings is always the smartest guy in the room, “an egotist with a wrecking ball” as Remain campaigner Craig Oliver (Rory Kinnear) calls him – or, if you like, Sherlock without the charm.
We follow Cummings’s reluctant recruitment to the cause, the evolution of his “Take Back Control” slogan (inspired partly by a childcare book) and his clashes with Euro-sceptic MPs, whom he despised.
Much of the action plays as quick-fire tragicomedy, a whistle-stop tour of how complacency and clever tech released demons the political class is still trying to re-bottle. It doesn’t make for cheery viewing.
I don’t, as a rule, enjoy political dramas. Not because they’re busman’s holidays but because I tend to find them frustrating. The villainous characters – often but not always drawn from the political right – tend to either be buffoons or to explain their motivations with speeches that would be better left to a subpar children’s TV show. The real life world of politics does tend to include more than its fair share of political decisions that I believe to be villainous with destructive consequences. But the people who do them don’t justify their decisions – even in private – with a cackle and a twirl of a moustache.
One of the few exceptions to the rule is the playwright James Graham, who works, largely but not exclusively, in political drama (though he is also the author of a number of non-political works), whose Brexit: The Uncivil War, the story of the rival campaign teams in the 2016 referendum, airs on Channel 4 this coming Monday. What elevates Graham is his compassion – he takes great effort to treat his subjects as human beings. Their actions may be monstrous, and some of them are out-and-out monsters: but they are recognisable human beings with their own aims, not caricatures. The Uncivil War, as is typical of his work, is brilliantly written and put together. It isn’t wholly accurate: some major players aren’t in it at all, while others have mere walk-on parts, but it is, of course, fiction and brilliantly told fiction at that. Good fiction requires strong leading characters, and The Uncivil War’s leading character is Dominic Cummings, the campaign’s balding head of strategy played by Benedict Cumberbatch aka Sherlock aka Doctor Stephen Strange. It is in the interests of writers to make senior political aides into influential figures because someone has to drive the plot and cause tension.
Cummings undoubtedly did have a unique contribution to the Leave campaign but his influence is exaggerated at Westminster. If you examine the successful campaign against the Alternative Vote and then the successful campaign to leave the European Union, you will notice a number of remarkable similarities: an absurd claim about the costs and a promise to use that money to spend more on public services. The two campaigns not only shared a method but an author: Matthew Elliott, the founder of the Taxpayers Alliance and a supporting part in this programme. That’s not to say that this would have been a better drama with Elliott as its leading man: one of the reasons why The Uncivil War is so good is that Cummings’ eccentricities and forceful expressions make him more compelling than any other possible protagonist would be. It wouldn’t even have been more accurate as all campaigns, whether they fail or flourish, are the product of multiple authors, which makes for messy television.