Like the meeting that dominates it, this drama doesn’t bother with niceties. A swift opening text explains that since the Cold War, British civil servants have been privately meeting to devise protocols to be followed in the event of nuclear disaster. Cut to a suitably gloomy MoD chamber in 2014, where a group of cabinet representatives are thrashing out Britain’s response to a speculative conflict between India and Pakistan.
Framing an entire film around a series of over-the-table discussions about a doomsday scenario that isn’t even happening might be considered a ballsy move. Sadly, ‘War Book’ fudges it by overcompensating. From the off, tensions don’t so much simmer as boil, with scenes of extravagant sweariness in ‘The Thick Of It’ territory – and sliding into implausible dialogue (‘Put away your CND banner, love!’). Muddied by a subplot about a blockade of lorries that, well, goes nowhere, the film’s tonal haphazardness does no justice to an all-too-relevant subject. Luckily, a cast of reliable faces – Antony Sher, Kerry Fox, Sophie Okonedo – avert total crisis.