As we begin to close out the year, we begin to look back – an introspectiveness takes us over alongside the spike in socialization over the holidays, with the implication of the New Year’s resolutions to follow. Of a similar tack comes this trailer for the latest HBO docudrama, focusing this time on the Brexit campaign and its inner workings. While Britons surely want an official investigation into the matter, this Toby Haynes-directed piece might have to do for now. (We kid, of course.)
In it we are introduced to Dominic Cummings (Benedict Cumberbatch), credited as “the man behind Brexit” in the first part of the trailer. He was the campaign director for Vote Leave since its inception in October 2015, although most of the public would most likely be more familiar with the names Boris Johnson or Nigel Farage.
The first twenty seconds comprises a dramatic introduction to Cummings; a persistent, war-like drum beats steadily, coming to a stop along with the subway car that Cummings sits in, sighing.
The trailer cuts to London’s outdoors, with an accompanying shift to almost frenetic strings in the middle register, rattling off arpeggiated chords in a minor key. The percussion from the first part of the trailer is still used to introduce the title cards as a rhythmically distinct accent, such as the words “incredible true story.”
At 0:42 the score builds after Cummings notes that the appeal to Leave voters’ feelings must be made, “whether fictional or not.” The studio card appears at this point. 1:20 introduces a new theme, as we see Johnson’s inimitably floppy blonde hair in the background – Cummings is in the political war room, about to launch a new social media campaign. The double basses, played arco, grunt with lumbering fury.
The clicks of computer mice chirp along with the basses in a dizzying screen montage, leading to Cummings jumping up and down in front of a campaign bus – an oddly humorous moment, as the seriousness of the score is completely undercut by Cummings’ unbridled enthusiasm, met with a disapproving reaction by his colleagues.
At 1:29 we get the third part of this classically styled, three-part trailer: whereas as most trailers of late take to a two-part form guided by a cover song or similar use of existing music, this trailer, with its through-composed, original score, is clearly delineated by its musically distinct beginning, middle, and end.
The musical arrangement for the ending section includes violins focused on two notes played in 16th while the middle takes on scalar patterns played at the same rate. Meanwhile, the percussion has reached full bore. At 1:50 the title logo is revealed in its stark, red, sans-serif lettering, not unlike a street sign, allowing the double basses and cellos the last few notes, alternating between the tonic and the dominant with a feeling of teetering inevitabiltiy.
Questions about the morality of covering a complex topic that Britons are clearly still needing to grapple with on a legal level aside, there is a restraint and simplicity shown by this trailer’s score that doesn’t happen often. In addition, the use of a triptych form reinforces the visual narrative and the dialogue (not least of which, Cumberbatch’s distinctive baritone).
Brexit premieres on HBO January 19th.
– Curtis Perry