Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5

dir Philip Martin
scr Peter Moffat, Geoff Bussetil
prd Radford Neville, Hilary Salmon, Sanjay Singhal
with Gillian Anderson, Billie Piper, Rufus Sewell, Keeley Hawes, Romola Garai, Richard Goulding, Amanda Redman, Connor Swindells, Lia Williams, Jordan Kouame, Alex Waldman, Zach Colton
release US/UK 5.Apr.24
24/UK 1h42

piper hawes garai

Is it streaming?

sewell and anderson, and hawes
With a brisk pace and the immensity of a real-life news story, this fact-based drama will especially hold the interest of anyone who loves journalistic thrillers. Forensically recreating the background to Prince Andrew's notorious 2019 Newsnight interview, this is a fairly straightforward account. But the script offers a continual stream of both offbeat personality details and telling moments. And it highlights the interview's profound effect on British society.
Feeling the pinch of funding cuts, the BBC's Newsnight team works to assemble episodes around the usual hot-potato topics, like Brexit. Alerted by a photo in the newspaper, Newsnight producer Sam (Piper) reaches out to Amanda (Hawes), private secretary to Prince Andrew (Sewell). Then Jeffrey Epstein suddenly becomes a top news story, and his past friendship with Andrew raises major questions. So Sam proposes an interview with top journalist Emily Maitlis (Anderson), offering a chance for Andrew to lay on the charm and change the narrative. But of course, that's not how it played out.
Watching Emily and Andrew prepare for the interview with their respective teams adds the tone of a courtroom drama, as they try to get their questions and answers clear. This turns the interview itself into a breathtaking interrogation sequence, played out in an extended sequence that includes some behind-the-scenes perspective. Then there's further suspense as they prepare to broadcast it and await the reactions.

As Emily, Anderson brings a terrific mix of intelligence and imperious wit, plus a twinkle of knowing honesty. Sewell feels somewhat engulfed in prosthetics, but still evinces layers of charm and squirmy awkwardness. Remarkably, he never becomes either sympathetic or loathsome. And the superbly grounded Piper is the heart of the film, the point of view through which this story is told. Her take on Sam sometimes comes across as flippant or arrogant, but she also provides a wonderfully personal kick.

It's chilling that Epstein operated in plain sight for decades before the FBI finally stepped in to arrest him. Importantly, Moffat and Bussetil's script keeps the victims of Epstein's crimes at the centre of the story, noting that it's up to journalists to give a voice to the voiceless and keep power in check. So it seems rather obvious when this is stated so bluntly in the final act. The fact is that Epstein's case is far from resolved, and whether journalists will ever get the full truth remains a question.

cert 15 themes, language 2.Apr.24

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© 2024 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall