Critics label Scoop 'self-admiring' but celebrate Billie Piper and Rufus Sewell

The film is out now on Netflix

Scoop (Netflix)
Scoop dramatises the events leading up to Newsnight's 2019 interview with Prince Andrew after he was accused of sex trafficking with Jeffrey Epstein. (Netflix)

Prince Andrew's infamous Newsnight interview has been recreated for the small screen thanks to Netflix, with a film adaptation Scoop which stars Gillian Anderson, Rufus Sewell and Billie Piper.

The interview took place in 2019, where the shamed prince (Sewell) answered questions from Newsnight journalist Emily Maitlis (Anderson) after he was hit with allegations of sex trafficking with Jeffrey Epstein. The accusations and interview led to Prince Andrew stepping away from his royal duties, and he paid a financial settlement to his alleged victim, Virginia Giuffre, who was 17 at the time of the alleged incident.

Netflix explores the interview itself but also what it took to procure the interview, namely Newsnight producer Sam McAlister's (Piper) fight to get it. But critics were in two minds about the film, commenting on how the film did not add much to what we already knew from the real event but it was acted well all the same.

The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw was one of the critics to feel this way about Scoop, writing: "Here is a laboriously acted and distinctly self-admiring, self-mythologising drama about the media, the royals and the media royals."

Scoop (Netflix)
Scoop stars Gillian Anderson, Rufus Sewell and Billie Piper as Emily Maitlis, Prince Andrew and Sam McAlister, respectively. (Netflix)

While not overly enthused by the film, Bradsaw did commend Rufus Sewell in particular for his take on Prince Andrew. Highlighting one scene, the critic added: "There is one spark: when Prince Andrew is shown humiliating a female underling for mishandling his collection of soft toys. It’s a flash of black-comic horror and Sewell has something to get his teeth into as an actor. Otherwise, the drama is smothered by its own overwhelming sense of importance."

Read more: The biggest revelations from Prince Andrew's 'car crash' Newsnight interview

The Independent critic Clarisse Loughrey said the film recreates the events of the interview "immaculately" but it is "uncomfortably smug about a hollow victory", with Loughrey pointing out that it doesn't give victims like Giuffre more than a passing comment.

The critic added: "There remain real questions about mainstream media’s ability to hold the powerful to account. But Scoop, which declares it a job-well-done simply to see a man stripped of honorary titles without ever having to defend himself in a criminal court, fails to make the argument for why any of this mattered beyond making good TV."

Scoop (Netflix)
Critics spoke of how the film added nothing new to what viewers likely already know about the interview, but they hailed Billie Piper's performance as Sam McAlister. (Netflix)

Sewell and Piper's performances were praised by The Telegraph, with critic Tim Robey calling the former a "revelation" and writing that he was: "Aided rather than swamped by sagging-chin prosthetics, he desports himself with exactly the right degree of arrogant charm, exploring its limits brilliantly."

Reflecting on the film's adaptation of real-life events, the critic went on: "It’s no laughing matter, obviously, but aspects of the whole saga are still inescapably absurd, and maximally milked in a borderline-The-Thick-of-It fashion without going overboard. The director, Philip Martin, plays everything right to the cusp – where you clamp hand to mouth, aghast at remembering that this trainwreck actually happened, and irresistibly compelled to relive it."

American publications like The Hollywood Reporter also reflected on the film's merits, with critic Leslie Felperin calling Scoop "serviceable as a retread of the events" but not one that proves its own merit.

The critic wrote: "It doesn’t significantly deepen or enrich our understanding of the personalities involved — let alone journalism, privilege, sexual exploitation or the price of fish... In an odd way, Scoop feels more like another example of Netflix feasting on the British royal family’s dirty laundry now that The Crown has gone as far into the present as it can go (or dares to go)."

Scoop was also criticised for being 'self-admiring' and feeling like a 'sanctimonious victory dance'. (Netflix)

Felperin went on to say that the film felt, at its worst, a "sanctimonious victory dance" which means the film is "less the exercise in truth-telling and journalistic virtue-signaling than it thinks it is."

Read more: Netflix’s Scoop crew mistook Billie Piper for BBC Newsnight producer

Deadline took the opportunity to celebrate Sewell and Piper's performances in the film, calling the former "superb" in his portrayal of Prince Andrew, and saying of the latter: "It is Piper who simply nails the tenacity and drive of McAllister, who would not give up against all odds of landing this interview."

Similarly, IndieWire commended the cast with critic David Ehrlich writing: "It’s a juicy, well-acted slice of recent history that straddles the border between hard journalism and tabloid filth."

While the performances in Scoop were commended, the narrative was said to not do much to prove it was worth dramatising the events. (Netflix)

The critic added: "There’s no doubt the Newsnight team deserved a pat on the back after giving Prince Andrew enough rope to hang himself on national TV, but the victory lap they’re given here is wildly unearned at the end of a film that struggles to find a story beyond its own sensationalism."

Meanwhile, Variety said the film is "no more compelling" than the real life interview, with critic Guy Lodge writing: "Scoop can offer no surprises to any viewers who were remotely acquainted with news media five years ago."

The critic added: "The frustration of Scoop is also its point: It vividly conjures the adrenaline and awe of one hour of dynamite television, but can bring us no closer to complete truth, or complete justice."

Scoop is out on Netflix now.

Watch the trailer for Scoop: