HBO’s trailer for ‘Brexit’ starring Benedict Cumberbatch is causing controversy

Benedict Cumberbatch filsm Channel 4 Brexit drama

I didn’t realize that Benedict Cumberbatch’s Brexit movie was also an HBO production. I thought it was just some crappy, low-budget British-television production which was thrown together at the last minute. My original qualm about this movie, Brexit, was about Benedict’s sad baby-bird vibe when he shaved his hairline to look mostly bald. My second qualm was that the script sounded awful, and like they were focusing on the wrong part of the Brexit story, which is still unfolding. Much like all of us American peeps don’t completely understand the extent of the Russian interference in the 2016 election, British peeps don’t completely understand the patchwork of shenanigans (some of it illegal) that created the Brexit vote in 2016. But that didn’t stop HBO from making this movie with Benedict as the “mastermind” behind the Brexit campaign, Dominic Cummings. The trailer was just released:

First of all, this just looks like a sh-tty movie, and bless his heart, Benedict is not a natural at accent work. Second of all, imagine if HBO was releasing a film right NOW, in the middle of the Mueller investigation, in which Paul Manafort is being played by, like, Tom Hanks, and Hanks is making Manafort into some kind of brilliant, Sherlockian antihero. It would be called what it is: propaganda, or entertainment malpractice, if you will. As many have pointed out, Britain doesn’t even have an all-encompassing investigation into what went down during the Brexit/Leave campaign – there is no British equivalent of the Mueller investigation. There have been smaller investigations, like the one done by the UK Electoral Commission, which found that the “Vote Leave” campaign broke the law. And the British investigations into the data-mining and manipulations by Cambridge Analytica have not gotten very far.

British journalist Carole Cadwalladr did an excellent Twitter thread about why “Brexit starring Benedict Cumberbatch” is a terrible thing, although she deleted some of the brilliant points she made, these points hold up:

This also made me think about Vice, the movie about Dick Cheney’s life, which is picking up a ton of big nominations this awards season. I have concerns that the film will legitimize Cheney or make people like him because people like Christian Bale. But the timing is very different – Cheney has been out of public office for ten years. The discussion about his questionable legacy of “public service” is fair game, and we have a better handle on all the sh-t he did in office. Not enough time has passed since the Brexit vote, and the controversy is still very much ONGOING.

Benedict Cumberbatch filsm Channel 4 Brexit drama

Photos courtesy of WENN.

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33 Responses to “HBO’s trailer for ‘Brexit’ starring Benedict Cumberbatch is causing controversy”

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  1. C. Remm says:

    quote: Mercer played a key role in the Brexit campaign by donating data analytics services to Nigel Farage.
    Mercer was an activist in the campaign to pull the United Kingdom out of the European Union, also known as Brexit. Andy Wigmore, communications director of Leave.EU, said that Mercer donated the services of data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica to Nigel Farage, the head of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP). The firm was able to advise Leave.EU through its ability to harvest data from people’s Facebook profiles in order to target them with individualized persuasive messages to vote for Brexit. However, Leave.EU did not inform the UK electoral commission of the donation despite the fact that a law demands that all donations valued over £7,500 must be reported.
    By January 2016 Mercer was the biggest single donor in the 2016 U.S. presidential race. In June 2016, he was ranked the #1 donor to federal candidates in the 2016 election cycle as he had donated $2 million to John R. Bolton’s super PAC and $668,000 to the Republican National Committee. Mercer was a major financial supporter of the 2016 presidential campaign of Ted Cruz, contributing $11 million to a super PAC associated with the candidate. Mercer was a major supporter of Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign for president. Mercer and his daughter Rebekah helped to get Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway senior roles in the Trump campaign. Rebekah worked with Conway on the Cruz Super-PAC Keep the Promise in the 2016 Republican primaries. Mercer also financed a Super PAC, Make America Number One, which supported Trump’s campaign. Nick Patterson, a former colleague of Mercer’s said in 2017 that Trump would not have been elected without Mercer’s support. :unquote

    Right now Bannon is very active in Catalonia, helping a ultraright party getting into power, whose aim is it to get independency from Spain.

    The main reason for all of this is to divide the European Union. We are in the middle of an economic war.

    • Bettyrose says:

      Thank you! This explanation is literally what I came here for. I remember not so long – but feels like a lifetime – ago the Brexit/Trump campaigns were a collective transatlantic laugh we were all having at the xenphobes in our respective countries. What a waste of time and money, we said, just to indulge the bigotry of an ignorant few. What the hell happened??

    • Janet says:

      I am not sure how you can know that Trump would have not been elected without Mercer. Russia did not change anyone’s vote in the US, same goes for Britain. People voted the way they did over immigration, feeling left behind due to the new global economy which is creating more poverty worldwide,and the arrogance of politicians like Marcon in France. If people are real Trump could get in again and the far right could get in in France.

      • Anatha. A says:

        And this feelings were fuelled by fake information and lies that was spread by Russian bots. Instead of reason people were fed populist propaganda that instead of addressing their fears and answering it, put fuel on the flame of their hate.

        So yes, there is a huge chance that people wouldn’t have voted for Trump and Brexit if they knew the truth instead of lies.

      • Dessi says:

        Can we stop excusing the racism and intolerance of people from US and Great Britain. The Russian bots aren’t responsible for the fact that a majority of white women voted for Trump. You want to tell me that the Russian bots were more effective than Nigel Farrage and David Cameron referendum rhetoric. Did Putin make Cameron pledge to conduct a referendum on UK’s EU membership.

      • Janet says:

        No Anatha it’s because they can no longer support themselves and pay for food, or that they are working two jobs to make ends meet, or that some pay nothing for Obamacare and they work hard and pay $800 a month, etc. You underestimate how people are feeling. They are angry feeling left behind and falling into poverty. They didn’t need a Russian bot to tell them that. Britain is the same. Both groups felt that th status quo was not going to help them. So they voted the way they did. And now they would probably vote the exact same way.

      • Jamie42 says:

        Speaking as a white woman who most emphatically did not vote for Trump, I agree that you are right that Trump directly appealed to racism, and that “Make America great again” had a subtext of “Make America white again.”
        But it’s not an either/or situation.
        Russian accounts spreading falsehoods on Facebook, the Trump News Network lies, vile online rightwing sites, all had their effects. And we can’t afford to ignore the corrosive effects of uncontradicted lies thrown into the ether, where they are picked up and repeated. We have to investigate the Russian impact on the election as cyberwarfare against our democracy, and I’m glad we seem to be doing it.
        And thanks, C. Remm, for the explanation–much appreciated.

      • Anatha. A says:

        Of course the bots didn’t ignite something that wasn’t there before. Yet, immigrants aren’t to blame for housing problems and low wages. That’s down to capitalism, greedy companies and governments that don’t put any stops on exploitation of the work force. But that’s not something the bots tell people. People love easy solutions, so if someone tells them “hey, blame foreign people that have an even weaker standing than you in this country” they fall for it. Instead of trying to fight against people like Trump that lower taxes, decrease social aids and will make their lives even more miserable.
        It’s complicated and people hate complicated so yeah, the foreigners are to blame and the fake news say the same so it has to be true.

      • Dessi says:

        But how can you prove that the bots were more efficient than the conservative and Tory trolls, the Fox News and the Murdochs and whatever who have been telling people those exact things for ages.

      • Anatha. A says:

        @Dessi Why do they have to be MORE efficient? Both want the same. So they add up to each other. If 45% voted the conservatives because of the Tories, Fox News and all other populists and only 6% voted them, because of the additional impact of bots, it’s still down to the bots. You should read about scare tactics and linking by closeness. If a person hears the same words over and over again, even it is a fact checker telling them that a link is a lie, they still believe it. The constant repetition of something links parts in our brains that makes us suspectible to emotional appeal. So linking “poverty” and “immigrants” with a personal situation of “poverty” will always automatically appeal to both parts of our brain. So whenever someone then mentions anything linked to either, we’ll see both together. That’s what these bots do. Constant repetition until we can’t seperate it in our brains any longer. They don’t work on their own, but in a surrounding. They make people hear what they are suspectible to, while blocking out all other news that might convince them otherwise.

      • Dessi says:

        But how do you know it’s six percent or one percent for that matter? Do you think people fall into echo chambers accidentally? That there are millions of Russian trolls roaming on the net in search of vulnerable people and the moment they see a poor smuck with anti-immigration views, they jump on them and brainwash them 24/7? If they’re exposed to these Russian bots, it’s because they were already inclined to buy into that messaging. And again, when you look at all the effort made by the conservatives and other right wing politicians and media to convince people of their nonsense, the Russian thing pales in comparison. While I don’t deny that they exist, I find that they’re also a convenient pretext for the mainstream parties to hide behind and attribute the “bad” voting behavior on external interference without acknowledging their responsibility. There wasn’t any Russian bot whispering in Cameron’s ear to call for an unnecessary referendum, he did that all by himself at the behest of the hardliners in his party.

      • Anatha. A says:

        @Dessi: Again, I never claim that bots mindwash innocent people. It’s all about giving suspectible people the push they needed. Those that were undecided and heard enough stories by bots that they chose to vote for the racist option. It’s about warping and altering one’s perception in a way that they think that their problems are down to immigrants and could be solved by xenophobic politics. It’s not black and white. Some research was done here: about the US election and here about the Japanese elections, where they even argue how people that claim to be not xenophobic vote for xenophobic views represented by Abe.
        Cameron was a twat and bots don’t absolve someone of being an idiot. Yet denying that their is an overall spread of fake news, disinformation and propaganda coming from Russian bots and that those things influence public opinion is naive.

      • Dessi says:

        But this disinformation is also coming from the GOP itself. So why is the Russian disinformation thought to be more effective than the one cultivated by born and bred American or British operatives (see the case of The Institute for Statecraft funded by the Foreign Minister to combat disinformation, but which also happened to go after Corbyn). None of those articles speak about the effectiveness of the Russian bots . The first article just mentions two examples of Russian bots, but focuses on the phenomenon overall from what I have read. Very interesting chat. Thanks for the articles.

      • Parigo says:

        I’m with you Anatha. That’s what the Mueller investigation is all about, foreign manipulation of elections. It was just enough to create a perfect storm to turn those two elections. And the same people behind Trump were also behind Brexit.
        And Janet, I very much disagree with your statement that “now they would probably vote the exact same way”. Many people were doing so in a protest vote thinking it wouldn’t really pass. And now it’s such a shit show with no end in sight.

  2. duchess of hazard says:

    Ugh, no thanks, HBO. As someone who’s greatly affect by Brexit (a Brit in the EU) this is NO BUENO. Like you said, its propaganda, and we haven’t even started inquires yet.

    • Meganbot2000 says:

      I’ve read the script. It’s really not propaganda (it’s telling that Brexiteers are accusing it of being Remainer propaganda, and Remainers are accusing it of being pro-Brexit propaganda), it’s a fair and balanced look that doesn’t portray Cavendish in a positive light which is what people are worried about.

  3. Steff says:

    It seems like it’s the worst time to put this out. And I take it this film is not a parody and takes itself seriously. Yikes.

    If Vice isn’t a horror movie the film makers have an inaccurate portrayal of Cheney. They can’t humanize a man with no soul.

    • Dessi says:

      You mean like we humanized Bush Jr. during the last couple of weeks. You’d be surprised. People are going to praise Chenney’s slyness and venality. It’s going to be a gross spectacle.

  4. Veronica S. says:

    How can you even do a movie about Brexit when the full ramifications haven’t been seen yet since we haven’t hit the actual separation date? Talk about your opportunistic film making. Cumberbatch should be embarrassed to be involved in this.

    • Meganbot2000 says:

      The film is specifically about those few weeks of the campaign, not about Brexit as a whole.

    • Jamie42 says:

      Cumberbatch also weirdly signed on for the Julian Assange film when his story was also not fully known–or rather, before his recent collaboration with the Russians. Not a good idea.

      • Ann says:

        The Russian stuff coming out didn’t change that film. It was about Daniel Domscheit-Berg, not Assange (who is only in about 1/3 in the movie), who left shortly after the Manning leak.

  5. jammypants says:

    Didn’t the production face legal troubles because of concerns of it influencing public perception while it’s still ongoing?

    • Meganbot2000 says:

      Lawyers were involved which is standard for any drama covering real people and events, but no legal troubles.

  6. Meganbot2000 says:

    This is actually my best friend’s movie and while I am obviously biased it’s fantastic. No one has any idea what the film is even about (hint: it’s not about what everyone having meltdowns on Twitter thinks it’s about) so it’s insane that people are judging based on 120 seconds of footage and heavily politically motivated coordinated political attacks on social media. The writer was subject to shocking abuse and called a Nazi on Twitter! Both sides are claiming it’s propaganda for the other side which is telling. It can hardly be Brexit propaganda and Remain propaganda at the same time.

    Carole’s tweets (which she has since deleted) were both abusive and dishonest and based on ignorance, specifically her claim that the film portrays DC as a hero which it certainly does not, and that’s not a claim she can make with any credibility as she’s obviously not seen the film. I respect her for the hard work she’s done but abusing artists is not acceptable.

    As the only person on CB who has actually read the script and witnessed filming, please don’t pre-judge it. It’s a phenomenal piece of drama written by the UK’s most respected political playwright, and is a sensitive and empathatic look at a divisive issue which is fair and balanced but certainly doesn’t attempt to glamororise or justify DC or the Leave campaign’s illegal actions.

    • J says:

      I don’t get the “hero”/propaganda claims either. It hasn’t aired, so how could anyone assert that like it’s fact?

      And yes, Carole was not a good look on this at all.

    • Incredulous says:

      You piss off both sides that much, I always think you must have done something right. I’ll watch it.

  7. Heather says:

    I’m one of James Graham’s biggest fans and horrified that smart people are falling for the right wing smear campaign against this film. JG is known for his impeccable research and fairness, and he’s a passionate Remainer so hardly likely to have written proBrexit propaganda, cmon. The abuse he’s getting turns my stomach.

    No one should be judging this TV drama without seeing it.

    (And I read they’ve been working on it for 2 years, it’s not some “thrown together” thing!)

  8. Xanon says:

    Tom Hiddeston, is that you?

  9. Bee says:

    Acting wise, it’s like Alan Turing changed clothes and entered modern age. Benedict is losing his mojo every time he jumps on one of these roles before the story has even finished playing out. It was exactly the same with playing Julian Assange. Dude should take a holiday, enjoy his Marvel money and perhaps go away for a bit.

  10. janerys says:

    I think your analysis is excellent. I can’t judge the content of the film. I question the timing and Cumberbatch’s recent role choices.