The Trick review: How the Climategate scandal rocked the world

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By Elle Hunt

Phil Jones successful  The Trick

Phil Jones (Jason Watkins) successful The Trick

Rory Taylor/BBC/Vox Pictures

It sounds trite to accidental that stories volition prevention us, particularly from a menace arsenic existential and contiguous arsenic ecological collapse. But astatine this important juncture successful the climate crisis, determination is expanding knowing that it isn’t capable to simply authorities the facts and figures: radical request narratives and characters to basal for, to consciousness the consciousness of urgency with which we indispensable enactment and to representation the standard of the devastation if we don’t.

The situation is: however to archer a communicative astir clime alteration that volition not lone prosecute audiences, but determination them to act?

The BBC has interpreted the little virtually with The Trick: a 90-minute play of the alleged Climategate ungraded of November 2009. A tranche of thousands of hacked documents and emails from the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit (CRU) was circulated by clime deniers to assertion that scientists were faking grounds of global warming.

At the centre of the ungraded was CRU manager Phil Jones, forced to support his findings done a media firestorm and successful the look of decease threats (before societal media made them de rigueur). The rubric refers to Jones’s notation successful an email to a workfellow astir a probe method oregon “trick”, which was taken retired of discourse to reason that Jones was manipulating the data.

The Trick focuses connected the unit placed connected Jones (Jason Watkins) to beryllium a convincing and likeable advocator for his ain probe against pernicious and shadowy efforts to undermine it. With his integrity nether attack, Jones indispensable person the nationalist that not lone tin they judge his findings, the destiny of humanity depends connected them doing so.

But Jones, stricken and nether siege, believes that the damning “hockey stick” graph of skyrocketing temperatures should talk for itself – overmuch to the vexation of the situation communications squad (George MacKay and Jerome Flynn) sent by the assemblage to assistance him signifier a narrative.

Watkins gives an affecting show of a antheral pushed astir to termination successful the look of sinister threats and shifting demands, arsenic does Victoria Hamilton successful her portrayal of Jones’s woman Ruth, hopeless to enactment her hubby but unsure of however to scope him. “They can’t reason with the facts,” she says. “But that’s what they bash each the time,” Jones explodes.

The brutalist architecture of the University of East Anglia field and scenes of the sweeping Norfolk coastline lend to the consciousness of isolation and foreboding.

But ultimately, arsenic overmuch arsenic The Trick has a batch to accidental astir the clime crisis, it struggles successful that determination isn’t overmuch to show. The enactment takes spot mostly successful offices, culminating successful a parliamentary prime committee hearing, wherever Jones is exonerated of wrongdoing; with the idiosyncratic (or individuals) liable for the hack connected the CRU emails ne'er identified, the film’s writer Owen Sheers is hamstrung successful however acold helium tin tally with The Trick as a “conspiracy thriller”, arsenic it is billed by the BBC.

But the effort to dramatise what has been described arsenic “one of modern society’s astir troubling affairs” is to beryllium applauded, not slightest for its modern relevance. The strategical smear run connected Jones was a wide forerunner of the disinformation that hinders connection astir the clime situation contiguous – and it was highly effective.

The interaction of Climategate was specified that it was said to person factored into the nonaccomplishment of the UN’s COP15 clime alteration acme successful Copenhagen, Denmark. More than a decennary on, galore radical inactive believe, wrongly, that scientists were shown to person been fiddling the figures. The Trick is worthwhile if lone arsenic different way to correcting that misapprehension, astatine a infinitesimal erstwhile the stakes are higher than ever.

Indeed, the timing of The Trick is significant, and this is explicitly stated wrong the movie successful effect to a constabulary serviceman who scoffs astatine however important stolen emails could perchance be. The breach occurred 3 weeks earlier COP15 and is thought to person acceptable the origin for clime enactment backmost years; The Trick airs wrong a period of COP26 successful Glasgow, UK.

As overmuch arsenic the movie is simply a correction of the record, it is besides a warning: it isn’t excessively precocious – conscionable – to marque up for mislaid time. But we can’t spend to squander immoderate more.

The Trick airs connected BBC One astatine 8.30pm connected 18 October and volition beryllium disposable connected iPlayer soon aft broadcast 

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