Are You In Or Are You Out?
Britain is a broken country. An unmendable rift was opened by politicians back in 2016 when a European Referendum was offered by David Cameron as a way to appease a growing number of unhappy voters. One simple question was given to the people – are you in or are you out?
Following the exploits of Vote Leave, Brexit: The Uncivil War follows the mastermind behind the emotionally manipulative campaign, political strategist Dominic Cummings. There’s an undercurrent of humour and a clever use of classical music here that gives the film a strange comedic tone that doesn’t quite fit with the message of the story. The anticlimactic ending and caricature portrayal of key players on both sides of the argument don’t help either, ultimately making the film, like the aftermath of the referendum, a missed opportunity to show something meaningful.
After a brief montage showing the political history of Britain after World War 2, the story begins with Dominic in a high-profile meeting in the near future, reflecting on the European Referendum and his regrets with shaping the political landscape to come. From here, the film jumps back in time to show the year leading up to the defining vote. From shady deals and emotionally manipulative adverts to financial exploits and outright lies, Brexit: The Uncivil War shows the ugly side of politics in all its glory. All of this builds toward the final act where Vote Leave eventually wins and Dominic is left to reflect on his involvement with the project.
The biggest problem with Brexit: The Uncivil War comes from the untimeliness of its arrival. The future of the United Kingdom is still unknown at this point and as the final frame of the film tells us, the story is still ongoing. In that respect, the film doesn’t work as a consistent whole, prematurely ending during the film’s biggest climax and, like Brexit itself, leaving more questions than answers. I can’t help but feel Brexit: The Uncivil War would have been far more effective taking cues from The Social Network and showing a more consistent, hard-hitting tone with tighter writing and more accurate character portrayals than what we’re given here.
Tonally, Brexit: The Uncivil War dances with amusing dark humour, accompanied by upbeat classical music and a simple colour scheme. Dull blues and long, monotonous dialogue from characters dominate the moments with the Remain team while vibrant reds and use of long tracking shots show a consistent rhythm and pace as we follow Dominic masterminding the emotionally charged Leave campaign. It’s a bold choice but one that ultimately doesn’t work, especially with how raw and sensitive this political bombshell is in Britain right now. The film leans politically in one direction and while I’m sure international audiences may take to this one with more enthusiasm as a Brit, there just isn’t enough substance here to make for a compelling watch.
Brexit: The Uncivil War is the proverbial equivalent of dumping petrol on a bonfire. It does nothing other than fuel the divide running through the middle of Britain and worse, doesn’t even tell a fulfilling story. In a few years when the dust settles and our future as a nation is decided perhaps another filmmaker will come along and make a compelling film about the subject but this is not that film. A missed opportunity for sure, Brexit: The Uncivil War, like the Brexit campaign, is designed to channel that inner emotional resonance with the topic and does more harm than good.