The Trick tells the story of how the work of Philip Jones and CRU on the effect of climate change on global temperatures was stolen in a cyber terrorist attack in 2009, three weeks before the COP15 meeting in Copenhagen. While the script is weak at times, with some bland dialogue and direction, the performances and story lift the film up to be an entertaining and informative testament to the work of climate scientists, and the need for action over climate change.
Seeing the UEA campus as a film set, with stars Jason Watkins, Victorian Hamilton, George MacKay and Jerome Flynn, among others, walking along its infamous brutalist walkways and with panoramic views of the ziggurats and science buildings feels slightly surreal. Seeing somewhere you walk every week in a completely different context on screen gives a sense of pride of the university and the work it has put out.
The TV movie’s focus on the emotional expense the real people involved in ‘climategate’ and the importance of their work is especially significant now, with the recent COP26 conference and the continued urgency for regulations and restrictions to be put in place to lessen the effects of climate change before the planet goes to a state of irreversible change. A larger budget and generally stronger production would have enabled this film to be more developed and to be distributed more widely, but the local access audiences have, with the film premiering on BBC One and being still available to watch on BBC iPlayer, gets the messages of the film across even more, making the topics a more everyday topic of discussion, rather than a dramatised piece of cinema magic for enjoyment rather than serious contemplation.
While the film itself isn’t a standout, the content and history of UEA and the work done here is definitely something students should acknowledge on a wider scale. I for one didn’t know anything about the events of the film before viewing, making it a definite recommendation for that point alone. Its messages are extremely well delivered, if heavy-handed at times. But with the seriousness of the real topics it deals with, climate change, cybercrime and fake news, it is understandable. A film made for spreading knowledge rather than artistic intent, The Trick achieves its goal in spreading the message of why we need to save the planet and trust the scientists.