‘Scoop’ movie review: Gillian Anderson, Rufus Sewell sparkle in engrossing drama on Prince Andrew’s Newsnight interview

Gillian Anderson as Emily Maitlis and Rufus Sewell as Prince Andrew in stills from ‘Scoop’

Gillian Anderson as Emily Maitlis and Rufus Sewell as Prince Andrew in stills from ‘Scoop’
| Photo Credit: Netflix

How Prince Andrew’s infamous friendship with late convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein led to the downfall of the Duke of York in the most chaotic manner possible is a story so complicated and dumbfounding that you almost feel sceptical at the thought of a film taking a crack on it in just over 100 minutes. But Netflix’s Scoop, directed by Philip Martin, is headstrong in anchoring it to one major objective: to take a clinical look at what went behind Andrew’s 2019 BBC Newsnight interview with lead anchor Emily Maitlis — which played a crucial role in the “Queen’s favourite son” stepping down — from the eyes of Sam McAlister, the former Newsnight editor and interview booker who secured the interview.

Adapting McAlister’s book Scoops: Behind the Scenes of the BBC’s Most Shocking Interviews to the screen, screenwriters Peter Moffat and Geoff Bussetil pull off quite a few deft writing choices in this tricky narration. The most fascinating of them all is where the film begins to unfold the story, when paparazzi photographer Jae Donnelly (played here by Connor Swindells) clicks the infamous picture of Andrews (a prosthetic-heavy Rufus Sewell) and Epstein (Colin Wells) walking together at Central Park, New York, in 2010.

It’s a screenwriting move that you understand only retrospectively — Donnelly hardly features in the film — when you realise the key role that the photographs played in what happened to Andrew and Epstein. Donnelly’s photographs not only captured what Andrew admittedly regrets in his equation with Epstein (meeting with him even four years after the sexual abuse accusations), but the usage of that image by media over the years plays a crucial role in how Andrew was seen by the people before McAllister (Billie Piper in a remarkable turn) uses public opinion to urge Amanda Thirsk (Keeley Hawes), Andrew’s private secretary, to do the interview to set things straight.

Interestingly, it was again another photograph, of Andrew with Virginia Giuffre (an alleged victim of Epstein who claims to have been trafficked for Andrew when she was 17), and Ghislaine Maxwell (Epstein’s girlfriend who helped him traffic young girls), that proves to have become a nightmare for Andrew, one which Maitlis (Gillian Anderson) grills Andrew over in her interview.

Scoop (English)

Director: Philip Martin

Cast: Gillian Anderson, Keeley Hawes, Billie Piper, Rufus Sewell, Romola Garai, and more

Runtime: 103 minutes

Storyline: How the BBC’s Newsnight team secured their famous 2019 interview with Prince Andrew on his friendship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein and the allegations that were made against him

Scoop works largely as a fantastic exhibit of how through news media and social media, the visual medium plays a crucial role in adjudication at the court of public opinion and to get justice meted out even in the court of the Royal family.

In a film that is largely told through McAllister’s eyes, the one scene where the perspective justifiably shifts to that of the public view is the coveted interview with Maitlis that the film has been building towards. This is a stellar sequence featuring two terrific performers recreating an abridged version of the real interview. Sewell as the greying, pale, impassive Duke of York captures even the frailer details of a man who mumbles his way into trouble, while Anderson imbues what must be going in the nerves of a woman whose career hangs in the balance as she asks a senior HRH if he had sex with underage girls.

Billie Piper as Sam McAllister in ‘Scoop’

Billie Piper as Sam McAllister in ‘Scoop’
| Photo Credit:

From an attempt to “set the tone right,” the one-hour interview becomes a nightmare for Andrew; Maitlis takes a tip from McAlister to “give him the space and let him talk,” and he talks, in an episode that is described as “a plane crashing into an oil tanker, causing a tsunami, triggering a nuclear explosion.” Andrew’s apathy, self-centredness and the “no-sweating” debacle during the interviews led to the removal of his royal duties, which was followed by a civil lawsuit by Giuffre, and then his eventual disappearance from public life.

Scoop is a racy, dramatised telling of a sensational story, but the film refuses to be reduced to just that. In the world of post-truth journalism, in which McAllister says, “We mistake talking to ourselves as news,” her defiance in the newsroom and what she does about it says that idealism always thrives in pockets of opportunities. Scoop may not make you romanticise your idealism, but it certainly asks you not to let it be deterred.

Scoop is currently streaming on Netflix

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button