Viewers Hated Brexit: The Uncivil War But At Least It Was Bleakly Amusing

Photo: courtesy of Channel 4
The issue with watching a dramatised version of history is that, even though you know how the story ends, there's always a glimmer of hope that there'll be a different (or better) conclusion. Alas, that obviously didn't happen with Channel 4's much-anticipated drama Brexit: The Uncivil War.
No spoilers here: the UK voted to leave the EU. We are living through the aftermath of one of the biggest decisions in recent history and even now, awaiting our murky fate. But what we did get to see unfold was how it all happened. How, exactly, did the Leave campaign win?
Advertisement
Before we go any further, allow me to reiterate the important disclaimer that popped up on our screens ahead of the show last night: "This drama is based on real events and interviews with key people who were there. Some aspects of dialogue, character and scenes have been devised for the purpose of dramatisation." It's for this reason that so much of the show was so entertaining but also – depressing reality of our political landscape aside – bleakly funny. At least, a little bit...
Benedict Cumberbatch stars as Dominic Cummings, ex-special advisor to Michael Gove and the apparent spearhead of Vote Leave's digital data lead campaign – which, as we've discovered since the referendum, was shrouded in illegal activity. Cumberbatch portrays him with his familiar wit and intelligence, and it's from his perspective that we watch the build-up to the 2016 referendum.
It's no surprise that the show prompted as divisive a response on Twitter as the Brexit vote itself. Some found the film leaned too heavily on Cummings, while others thought it shouldn't have been made at all – at least not right now, while investigations and Brexit proceedings are still underway. Then there's the argument that there was a responsibility to focus more on the facts and the illegalities of the campaign. Some viewers, though, simply took small amusement from the caricature depictions of the other political figures who featured.
Actor Lee Boardman's portrayal of Leave.EU funder Aaron Banks was heavily compared to a Robbie Williams impersonation, and Nigel Farage's (played by Paul Ryan) entrance via helicopter to join Banks on top of a 4x4 to plot the country's departure from Europe while smoking cigs and swigging from a shared bottle of vodka is suitably farcical.
Advertisement
Jeremy Corbyn's absence from the narrative didn't go unnoticed, either (in real life and in the Channel 4 film) and many users made depressingly apt comparisons to Black Mirror. "If I hadn't lived through it, #BrexitUncivilWar could be the latest episode of Black Mirror," one viewer tweeted.
Of course, not all of Brexit: Uncivil War was accurate. Yes, Cummings did a controversial interview with a magazine that pissed a lot of people off, and there's a focus group scene that'll really drive home the frustration and helplessness felt by many voters. But no, for the record, that crucial last scene that showed Cummings giving evidence at a public hearing into the scandal definitely didn't happen, which is actually quite a significant history-altering thing to throw in there. It's a fictionalisation of a truth that is evolving right this second. And as terrifying as the uncertainty of it all is, at the very least the programme gave a legitimately interesting perspective on the inside story – about which many of us, I'm sure, will admit we had no clue before now.

More from TV