Film Review: War Book [BFI London Film Festival 2014]

on Tuesday, October 14, 2014
'War Book' (UK Release: TBC) // Words: Saam Das

During the Cold War, key members of the UK government relied on a piece of literature known as the "War Book", which outlined plans for the aftermath of nuclear holocaust. 'War Book' brings this notion into a 21st century setting, as politicians and civil servants are brought together to run through their own post-nuclear scenario in this calculated minimalist British political drama.

Sophie Okonodo's Phillipa heads the convened committee, with top governmental roles individually allocated including Ben Chaplin as an incredibly smug Prime Minister and Kerry Fox as Defence Secretary. The committee is thrust into their war game exercise, which sees extremists from Pakistan detonate a nuclear device in India - the beginning of a chain of events potentially leading to conflict on a global scale.

As the fictional crisis deepens, and issues in the wider world develop, the personality and frailty of the individuals involved becomes apparent. The intense focus on such a small group of individuals finds its most obvious comparison in Sidney Lumet's '12 Angry Men', with Shaun Evans' Tom bringing a particular desperation and reminiscence to the dissent of Henry Fonda's iconic character.

Both writer Jack Thorne ('The Fades', 'Skins') and director Tom Harper ('Peaky Blinders', 'Misfits' have forged their impressive reputations on the small screen, notably teaming for TV mini-series 'This Is England '86'. The duo also combined on 2010 feature 'The Scouting Book For Boys', and their follow-up will be seeking a similarly positive reception. The dark wit and tense interactions of 'War Book' prove notable highlights, although the film's finale feels rather less suspenseful and affecting than it should.


'War Book' had its world premiere at the 58th BFI London Film Festival. Find more info and purchase tickets to further screenings of the film at

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