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

Gillian Anderson portrays Emily Maitlis and Rufus Sewell depicts Prince Andrew in scenes from ‘Scoop’
| Photo Credit: Netflix

The complex tapestry woven by Prince Andrew’s controversial association with the late Jeffrey Epstein, a convicted sexual offender, and the subsequent unraveling of the Duke of York in an almost unbelievable fashion, seems almost too convoluted for a film. Yet, Netflix’s ‘Scoop’, orchestrated by director Philip Martin, embarks on precisely this, delving surgically into the events leading up to Andrew’s cataclysmic 2019 BBC Newsnight chat with anchor Emily Maitlis, a defining moment prompting the so-called “Queen’s favourite son” to step down—a revelation seen through the lens of Sam McAlister, the former Newsnight editor credited with securing this landmark interview.

In translating McAlister’s book ‘Scoops: Behind the Scenes of the BBC’s Most Shocking Interviews’ for the screen, writers Peter Moffat and Geoff Bussetil masterfully maneuver difficult storytelling choices. The narrative unfurls beginning with paparazzo Jae Donnelly (portrayed by Connor Swindells) immortalizing the notorious image of the heavily made-up Rufus Sewell as Andrews strolling alongside Epstein, portrayed by Colin Wells, in New York’s Central Park in 2010.

This strategic screenplay decision only becomes apparent later—it becomes clear that Donnelly’s role is minimal in the film—when one recognizes the pivotal impact of these photos on public perception of Andrew and Epstein. Donnelly’s snapshots not only visually document Andrew’s self-professed lamentations about his involvement with Epstein, but also the sheer persistent media circulation of said image fuels the public’s verdict on Andrew. This establishment of collective opinion is what drives McAllister (an outstanding Billie Piper) to convince Amanda Thirsk (Keeley Hawes), Andrew’s private secretary, that an interview could rectify the duke’s tainted public figure.

Coincidentally, another image, this one featuring Andrew alongside Virginia Giuffre (an alleged victim of Epstein who has accused the prince of exploitation during her teen years) and Ghislaine Maxwell (Epstein’s companion and accused accomplice in trafficking), becomes a source of relentless distress for Andrew, as evidenced when Maitlis (skillfully played by Gillian Anderson) confronts him about it during their tense TV interview.

Scoop (English)

Director: Philip Martin

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

Runtime: 103 minutes

Storyline: The true account of how BBC’s Newsnight team orchestrated their profound 2019 interview with Prince Andrew, surrounding his connections with Jeffrey Epstein and the accusations leveled against him

‘Scoop’ brilliantly demonstrates the omnipotence of visual media within the realm of news and social platforms in shaping opinions––notably to a degree where it influences verdicts not just in the court of public opinion, but also within monarchal judgment.

Told predominantly from McAllister’s perspective, ‘Scoop’ rightfully shifts its viewpoint at the climax to exhibit the much-anticipated Maitlis interview, a striking representation featuring two stellar actors. Sewell portrays the Duke of York with astonishing attention to the intricate details of a man whose on-camera blunders dig his own pitfalls, while Anderson injects the scene with the palpable tension of a journalist whose interrogation could make or break her career as she questions a royal about illegal conduct.

Intended as a means to clarify his stance, the one-hour interview segues into a widespread disparagement for Andrew. Maitlis, advised by McAlister to “let him speak,” leads to Andrew’s own revelations, described as “a plane crashing into an oil tanker, igniting a tsunami, triggering a nuclear explosion.” This stark episode exposes Andrew’s detachment and self-centered demeanor, culminating in the notorious “no-sweating” assertion and culminating in his withdrawal from royal obligations, a subsequent lawsuit by Giuffre, and his eventual fade from public view.

‘Scoop’ is an enthralling dramatization of a high-profile tale but refuses to be simply that. In an era where journalism often wrestles with the concept of truth, McAllister’s steadfastness in the newsroom and her resulting actions illustrate that idealism can survive, even flourish, when given the chance. ‘Scoop’ might not romanticize idealism, but it does implore us to persist and not to be discouraged.

‘Scoop’ is now available for streaming on Netflix.

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