Jason Watkins leads an impressive cast (Picture: BBC)
If there’s anything to take away from the BBC’s drama The Trick, it’s that climate change denial doesn’t just endanger the future of the planet for generations to come – it can destroy people living on it right now.
The TV drama tells the true story of Phil Jones, played with sensitivity and restraint by Jason Watkins, who headed up the University of East Anglia’s world renowned climate research unit before his world was upturned by the events of ‘climategate’ in 2009.
The dramatisation follows him and his wife Ruth (Victoria Hamilton, defiant and impressive) as their lives are rocked during the high-profile media scandal.
In events which sparked headlines around the world, and made Norwich the epicentre for climate discourse around the globe, Phil was targeted in a cyberterrorist attack co-ordinated by climate change deniers.
Thousands of emails were stolen shortly before the Copenhagen climate talk summit, including a number of messages which seemed to suggest the scientists had exaggerated the threat of climate change leaked to the press.
Only, no exaggeration had taken place at all, and the headlines threatened to unjustly destroy a man’s entire life’s work and provide fuel to dangerous conspiracy theories on the more dubious corners of the internet.
The personal and the political collide in this new BBC film, which features an impressive cast led by Jason. George Mackay and Jerome Flynn also play the PR experts brought in to try and undo the damage done to Phil’s reputation, while Amber Rose Revah and Rhashan Stone astar as police officers looking into the theft of the emails.
Now, normally with film and TV shows focusing on hacking and cyberterrorism, the challenge is all bout making numbers scrolling down a computer screen look cinematic and interesting.
Rather than focus on the hacking itself, though, The Trick focuses purely on the fallout and the downslide in Jason’s mental health in the face of global scrutiny – and even the impact of death threats sent to him and his family.
The TV film arrived on Monday night (Picture: BBC/Vox Pictures)
George Mackay and Jerome Flynn star in the BBC drama (Picture: BBC)
His quietly meditative performance does most of the heavy lifting, and the film is at its strongest when focusing firmly on Jason’s heartbreaking experiences. In one memorable scene, he shakes violently as he struggles to put together a jigsaw puzzle while damning news reports play in the background, portraying his deteriorating mental state elegantly.
Jason is more than capable of carrying the film on his shoulders, but the problem comes when it looks more widely at the implications of climate change denial.
A lot of the nitty gritty details of the climate change research are lost in a quagmire of exposition, and the often stagnant direction often doesn’t help the drama deliver as it wants to.
Jason’s quietly meditative performance is the strongest thing in this climate change parable, but sadly the results are likely to leave viewers feeling a little lukewarm.
The Trick airs on Monday at 8.30pm on BBC One.