Scoop (2024, dir. Philip Martin)

by | Apr 5, 2024

Certificate: 15

Running Time: 103 mins

UK Distributor: Netflix

UK Release Date: 5 April 2024

WHO’S IN SCOOP?

Gillian Anderson, Rufus Sewell, Billie Piper, Keeley Hawes, Connor Swindells, Romola Garai, Charity Wakefield, Paul Popplewell, Lia Williams, Theresa Godly

WHO’S BEHIND THE CAMERA?

Philip Martin (director), Geoff Bussetil and Peter Moffat (writers), Radford Neville, Hilary Salmon and Sanjay Singhal (producers), Anne Nikitin and Hannah Peel (composers), Nanu Segal (cinematographer), Kristina Hetherington (editor)

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

In 2019, BBC journalist Emily Maitlis (Anderson) scores an interview with disgraced royal Prince Andrew (Sewell)…

WHAT ARE MY THOUGHTS ON SCOOP?

The unparalleled obsession that most of us Brits seem to have with the Royal Family is largely down to the media’s intense coverage of every trivial thing that high-ranking members happen to get up to. The recent online and in-print debacle surrounding Catherine, Princess of Wales is more than a good example, as is the intense scrutiny that Princess Diana faced by photographers and journalists right up to her untimely death. In more recent years, though, the media has also been at the forefront of exposing severe scandals from within Buckingham Palace, namely Prince Andrew and his now-infamous interview with journalist Emily Maitlis for the BBC’s investigative programme Newsnight, regarding his affiliations with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

Unsurprisingly, both the interview and the events leading up to it are once more in the media spotlight, with director Philip Martin’s Scoop reconfiguring them as an intense journalistic thriller that often feels like if David Fincher made All the President’s Men. Despite the occasional genuine thrill, though, it’s fairly standard stuff that ultimately doesn’t offer a whole lot more insight into the incident that caught the world off-guard.

Set in 2019, we mainly follow Newsnight producer and talent booker Sam McAllister (Billie Piper), who here is depicted as a lone wolf that is on the hunt for a compelling story to bring to her fellow producers, including presenter Emily Maitlis (Gillian Anderson). Soon, the story of Epstein’s arrest on sex trafficking charges, and his apparent suicide whilst in jail, becomes a monumental worldwide news sensation, especially when it comes to light that one of the many famed public figures linked to Epstein is none other than Prince Andrew (Rufus Sewell, under prosthetics to accurately play the Duke of York). The royal, under guidance from his press secretary Amanda Thirsk (Keeley Hawes), is eventually approached by Maitlis, McAllister and fellow producers to negotiate the terms of what would become that famous interview, one that would spell the end of Andrew’s career as a working royal.

Anyone expecting Scoop to be as seriously investigative of the Epstein case and its ties to members of the Royal Family as, say, Spotlight was towards the Catholic priest scandal, will not get that level of depth here. It is a mere dramatization of events, one that ironically wouldn’t feel that out of place as an actual BBC one-off drama, as the script by Geoff Bussetil and Peter Moffat (who adapt the real McAllister’s book Scoops: Behind the Scenes of the BBC’s Most Shocking Interviews) hardly digs more than mere centimetres beyond what is already public knowledge about the Prince Andrew interview. It leaves little tension in the negotiation scenes themselves, partly because we already know how things are going to go, but also due to the fact that the script plays it relatively safe when it comes to detailing the facts surrounding the accusations themselves, with any and all reported victims of both Epstein and the Duke of York not even being granted screen time, let alone a word of dialogue to tell their side of the story. For a film about the integrity of journalism, it isn’t particularly thorough with how it handles the dramatics of this real-life story.

It’s left to the performers to turn an otherwise thin narrative into a compelling watch, and the actors deliver a bunch of strong and memorable turns that make Scoop just about worthwhile. Much of the focus will undoubtedly be on Rufus Sewell’s mummy’s-boy take on Prince Andrew, and the actor is a hoot as he plays into the disgraced royal’s arrogance as he tries to save his own reputation in embarrassing fashion (his amusingly pathetic rendition of Andrew’s notorious claims about being unable to sweat and his patronage at the Woking branch of Pizza Express are almost as funny as the actual interview itself). However, it is Billie Piper who comes away with the biggest impression, as she turns McAllister into a force of nature that’s almost like she’s a rogue cop in a by-the-book precinct, which Piper manages to make compelling despite the character being about as thin as everyone else on the script pages.

Funnily enough, Netflix isn’t the only streamer releasing a dramatization of the Prince Andrew interview, as Prime Video has a three-part miniseries in the works, this time with Michael Sheen playing the Duke of York. My suspicion is that, with more time to flesh out the facts for dramatic purposes, Amazon’s version will have a bit more to say about it all than Netflix’s Scoop does, which despite some top-rate turns can’t quite nail the immediacy and urgency that came with the Prince’s televised downfall.

SO, TO SUM UP…

Scoop is a dramatized rendition of the events leading up to the infamous Prince Andrew interview, but despite some memorable turns by the likes of Rufus Sewell and Billie Piper, it ultimately doesn’t dig that deep into the harrowing nature of the crimes that the disgraced Duke of York has become permanently linked to.

Three out of five stars

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