Leavers will hate film that makes a hero of their guru

The New European - - Agenda - STEVE AN­GLE­SEY’S

Imag­ine a Star Wars film cen­tred around an ec­cen­tric but bril­liant in­ven­tor mas­ter­mind­ing a guerilla war against the rul­ing forces. With the odds stacked against him, he as­sem­bles a mot­ley crew of rule-break­ing mis­fits and some­how he wins. Then, at the end of the movie, he re­veals his lat­est and most in­cred­i­ble cre­ation: It’s the Death Star, and he’s even re­mem­bered to re­move the ex­haust port.

This is why Re­main­ers are go­ing to strug­gle with Brexit: The Un­civil War, the Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch-star­ring ref­er­en­dum drama which airs on Chan­nel 4 on Mon­day. Breezily scripted and bril­liantly acted, it makes a hero of Do­minic Cum­mings, the man who brought you the three key el­e­ments of Leave’s vic­tory: Tur­key about to join the EU (not true), £350m a week for the NHS (not true) and ‘take back con­trol’ (a great slo­gan, but since we al­ready had con­trol, not true ei­ther).

Once called a “ca­reer psy­chopath” by David Cameron, Durham-born Cum­mings is, ac­cord­ing to many, a ge­nius-level po­lit­i­cal op­er­a­tor whose ruth­less self­be­lief ren­ders him un­suit­able to play nicely with oth­ers. Here Cum­ber­batch gives him Bobby Charl­ton’s hair­cut and Jack Charl­ton’s ac­cent – al­though at times it wob­bles and he’s more Sher­lock than Spender.

More im­por­tantly, he gives him hu­man­ity. Cum­mings joins Alan Tur­ing, Sher­lock Holmes, Ju­lian As­sange and Stephen Strange as one of Cum­ber­batch’s trade­mark weirdo sa­vants – “a geeky an­ar­chist who wants to show off ”, as one char­ac­ter de­scribes him. You’re en­cour­aged to join the dots to other Cum­ber­batch roles: the ti­tle Un­civil War

nods to Cum­ber­batch’s Avengers

ap­pear­ances and there are other Easter eggs for fans of both Mar­vel (in an early scene at Tate Bri­tain) and the ac­tor (when a Sher­lock alumni ap­pears as the voice of Pe­ter Man­del­son).

Writer James Gra­ham and direc­tor Toby Haynes, a Sher­lock vet­eran, seem to have pat­terned their film around the ex­cel­lent base­ball an­a­lyt­ics drama

Money­ball. When Cum­ber­batch’s Cum­mings is geek­ing out about Face­book de­mo­graph­ics or scrib­bling on sur­faces like John Nash in A Beau­ti­ful Mind we’re pushed to root for him as we did for Brad Pitt and Rus­sell Crowe. Know­ing what we now know about the dodgy deal­ing of

Vote Leave – very lit­tle of which is ex­plic­itly touched on here – it’s a deeply un­com­fort­able feel­ing.

But rest as­sured that how­ever bad you feel while watch­ing Brexit: The Un­civil War, Brex­i­teers have al­ready de­cided they are go­ing to be feel­ing even worse. Take the jour­nal­ist Char­lotte Gill, whose cred­its in­clude the Mail, Tele­graph and

Spec­ta­tor. Unafraid to make up her mind de­spite hav­ing seen only a 60-sec­ond trailer for a 100-minute film, she com­plained on Twit­ter that “Brex­i­teers are go­ing to be the bad­dies. Re­moan­ers are go­ing to be the good­ies – even though Brex­i­teers are ac­tu­ally the he­roes.”

It’s true that many in the Leave camp don’t come out of this well. Nigel Farage is por­trayed as im­mi­gra­tion-ob­sessed, Bill Cash as buf­foon­ish, Ar­ron Banks as a lad­dish car­toon, Daniel Han­nan as blankly self-as­sured, Boris John­son as will­ing to set aside truth in the pur­suit of vic­tory. Cum­mings him­self is ac­cused of glibly feed­ing a toxic cul­ture which will break Bri­tain apart. All li­bel­lous stuff, were it not com­pletely true.

But this will not mat­ter to Char­lotte and the true Brexit be­liev­ers, who will over­look that the Re­main camp also get a kick­ing here – com­pla­cent, hec­tor­ing, al­ways play­ing de­fence and out of touch with or­di­nary peo­ple un­til the ref­er­en­dum is lost – be­cause it feeds their lat­est mantra, that the luvvies are sub­vert­ing Brexit.

Take as an ex­am­ple the amaz­ing over­re­ac­tion to Sarah Phelps’ mas­ter­ful rein­ven­tion of Agatha Christie’s The ABC Mur­ders, which screened on BBC One over Christ­mas.

Set­ting aside moans about Phelps’ plot changes (de­spite the fact that faith­ful Poirot adap­ta­tions star­ring David Suchet play daily on ITV3) and John Malkovich’s fail­ure to do Suchet’s René Ar­tois ac­cent, what Brex­i­teers re­ally did not like were a hand­ful of scenes in which Poirot en­coun­tered mem­bers of Oswald Mosley’s Bri­tish Union of Fas­cists. “The story has been re-imag­ined as an anti-brexit para­ble,” moaned Tim Daw­son, writer of the un­la­mented BBC Three sit­com

Com­ing Of Age on the Con­ser­va­tive Home web­site. “Left-lib­eral pro­pa­ganda… ex­cru­ci­at­ing,” was the Tele­graph’s ver­dict. The bizarre @Labourleave Twit­ter ac­count asked: “Why is the #BBC tar­ring 52% of the pop­u­la­tion that pays for it as ‘fas­cist’? This piti­ful, of­fen­sive non­sense from Sarah Phelps is luvvie ig­no­rance and pos­tur­ing at its worst.”

Then, when Jodie Whit­taker phoned UNIT for help in the New Year’s’ Day

episode of Doc­tor Who, only to be told that the mil­i­tary or­gan­i­sa­tion had been “put on hold fol­low­ing fi­nan­cial dis­putes and sub­se­quent fund­ing with­drawal by the UK’S ma­jor in­ter­na­tional part­ners”, the blood pres­sure rose once again. “I can­not f**king be­lieve that the BBC are now ped­dling their anti-brexit pro­pa­ganda bulls**t with Doc­tor Who,” tweeted ‘In­car­na­tion Eleven’, adding, “Oh… hang on… of course I can!”

For fear of be­ing trig­gered then, it might be best if Leavers tune in just for the fi­nal mo­ments of Brexit: The Un­civil War.

You know, the bit where they win. For The New Euro­pean read­ers it’s go­ing to be a tougher watch. Though Gra­ham and Haynes give it a grat­ing and need­less Hol­ly­wood gloss (no, the fi­nal re­sult wasn’t a mys­tery un­til it was an­nounced on­stage in Manch­ester in the early hours of June 24), the se­quence show­ing Leave’s vic­tory is ev­ery bit as de­press­ing as the real thing.

But, my fel­low Re­mainer snowflakes, do not be tempted to turn off just as the cham­pagne corks pop. If you do, you’ll miss Cum­ber­batch us­ing a spec­tac­u­lar and com­pletely ac­cu­rate four-let­ter term to de­scribe Nigel Farage. And you’ll def­i­nitely be read­ing com­plaints about that on Twit­ter. Brexit: The Un­civil War airs on Chan­nel 4 at 9pm on Mon­day, Jan­uary 7

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