Unless you have been living under a rock in the last decade in the UK, you will undoubtedly know about Savile’s crimes. Four part series The Reckoning from the BBC covers how Savile was able to operate in plain sight.
He is played chillingly by Steve Coogan, Coogan’s casting came as a surprise to some as he is mostly known for his comedic roles. But Steve Coogan is also a superb dramatic actor, his portrayal of Savile is terrifyingly accurate from the voice to his mannerisms and his cold narcissistic demeanor.
Jimmy Savile was a British television and radio personality who, after his death in 2011, was revealed to have committed hundreds of heinous crimes. He was accused of sexually abusing and assaulting hundreds of children and adults over several decades.
Savile’s crimes were particularly disturbing because he used his celebrity status and charity work to gain access to vulnerable individuals, often in hospitals and care homes. The extent of his abuse shocked the public and led to a significant scandal in the UK.
Investigations into his actions exposed a dark and disturbing side to a man who had long been seen as a beloved figure in British entertainment, his depravity knew no bounds.
The Reckoning centers around interviews with his biographer Daniel (Mark Stanley) and it flashes back and forth between these conversation’s and his life through the decades starting in 1962. Savile at the time was a rising DJ, it follows his rise in the British entertainment industry as he went on to front many popular TV shows. Alongside this he was a huge charity campaigner, his profile had become so big he was one of the most well know entertainers in Britain in the 70’s and 80’s.
The series also features interviews with real life victims and original archival footage but it focuses on his rise in fame and how that fueled his depravity. He used charity to gain access to hospitals were he was able to abuse countless venerable victims, while emphasising his lack of empathy and his untouchable attitude.
The scenes where he attacks his victims are handled well, the sense of terror and the distress on his victims faces upon their realisation is terrifying, whilst showing nothing of the physical events the atmosphere is charged, but it’s still hard to watch.
Where The Reckoning does let us down is that it’s a reconstruction of what we already know. We are afforded no new information, no closer look into how the institution that is the BBC failed to act. We see Savile interact with low level producers, any legal cases were quickly swept under the rug and the many rumours were met with numerous mutterings of “It’s just Jimmy being Jimmy.”
It does illustrate the failures of NHS staff that allowed him to come and go as he pleases, as complaints from porters go unanswered. He was allowed to turn Broadmoor into a circus and even managed to charm then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, despite the red flags she continually pushed for his knighthood.
Even the BBC’s planned documentary that was going to expose him as a sexual predator was shelved after his death in 2011, this information is reduced to a sentence in the pre-credits, again displaying a lack of accountability.
The ironic thing is there was no ‘Reckoning’ he was one of the worlds most prolific sex offenders, he was opportunistic and this pushed his depravity to unimaginable levels. He was never charged, never even arrested, despite decades of rumours. He has had his knighthood and headstone removed and he’s been vilified but it’s all posthumous, the truth is that he got away with it.
Whether The Reckoning should have been made or not is up for debate. In no way does it humanise Savile, he’s portrayed as the vile, grotesque man that he was and it shows how he used his fame and connections to commit the most vile crimes, it’s grim and a tough watch.
What carries the series is Steve Coogan’s performance, he portrays him at various ages and embodies his vulgar looks and personality at every stage. It’s an exceptional performance, he captures Savile’s mannerisms, voice & his cold-blooded narcissistic personality with sickening accuracy.
You can watch all four episodes of The Reckoning on BBC iPlayer now.