Amidst the ongoing global chaos, we understand that you may be hesitant to kick back and relax with a 90-minute rehash over the pre-pandemic political turmoil. But you might be more inclined once we tell you how brilliant it is, and that it has everyone’s favourite Sherlock – Benedict Cumberbatch – starring as Dominic Cummings. Anyone fancy a trip to Barnard Castle?
It’s always a bit of a risk to dramatise recent history, partly due to the difficulty in finding an actor that’s good enough to be believable as someone who is still fresh in our memory, and also because people likely know all the facts from following the story as it happened. Then there’s that third little issue: people have hardly calmed down from the real event, and the embers of rage are still glowing.
That was definitely the case with this ninety-minute special. Written by James Graham and directed by Toby Haynes, it depicts the controversial run up to the 2016 Brexit referendum, through the eyes of the most prominent leave campaigners and strategists. We follow them through their (oft scrutinised) schemes and plots of social media adverts, overspending and dodgy use of personal information. And though we may have lived through it, watching the race itself you’ll likely be as gripped as the first-time around. So, when your heart starts racing and your fingers reach for your phone, ready to send a string of angry tweets and argue with your rellies in the family group chats, just remember: deep breaths. It’s all over now.
Naturally, people had a lot to say about this film, and most of it was about how flattering it was to Cummings, helped along by the fact they cast one of Britain’s most beloved actors to play him. And depending on your stance this may either enrage or comfort. But that’s not for us to decide, so in true Must fashion, we’ll tell you that this a controversial bit of telly, but a Must see wherever you stand.
Whilst the telly viewing public were quick to have their say, so were the critics, and obviously they weren’t all in agreement. Lucy Mangan in The Guardian was quick to bash this “superficial, irresponsible,” bit of telly, going so far as to say “In an era besieged by misinformation, it was the duty of the makers of this Cumberbatch referendum drama not to add to the chaos. They did not succeed.” Unsurprisingly, The Telegraph’s Chris Harvey disagrees, saying “it was brilliantly done,” with Dominic Cummings painted as a “hero.” The Independent’s Hugh Montgomery says the films value “is to illuminate the relatively anonymous players who pulled the strings in the torrid campaigning battle,” continuing “criminal or not, no one could surely come away from this drama seeing such an operation as anything other than a malign new path for our democracy.”
First shown January 2019. You can watch the trailer by pressing play on the show image, or by clicking here.