Review: Spotlight (2016)

Spotlight expertly avoids Hollywood drama and cliché, subverts the power of the Oscars, and instead focuses on a being a film that presents the real story cleanly and truthfully.

Spotlight (2016)

Director: Tom McCarthy (The Visitor, Up, The Cobbler)

Starring: Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher, The Avengers, Shutter Island), Michael Keaton (Birdman, The Other Guys), Rachel McAdams (Southpaw, Sherlock Holmes, Mean Girls), Liev Schreiber (Goon, Salt, X-Men Origins: Wolverine), John Slattery (Mad Men, Iron Man 2), Stanley Tucci (The Lovely Bones, Winchell, Easy A).

Spotlight expertly avoids Hollywood drama and cliché, subverts the power of the Oscars, and instead focuses on a being a film that presents the real story cleanly and truthfully.

Director Tom McCarthy handles an impressive ensemble cast comprising of Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams and Brian d’Arcy James, who form the Spotlight team, a group of investigative journalists who will spend months working on solving stories that need to be heard. Supporting them are the likes of Liev Schreiber, the new editor of The Boston Globe who gives them the assignment, John Slattery and Stanley Tucci who all give grand performances.

Schrieber’s character Marty Baron has taken over as editor of The Boston Globe, with an outside perspective of what the paper and the Spotlight team should be doing. He asks the team to investigate why the Cardinal Law (Archbishop of Boston) knew of a priest sexually abusing children and did nothing about it. In its two hour running time, Spotlight only once feels as if it has overstepped its mark with an attention grabbing monologue from Ruffalo’s character Michael Rezendes. Though admittedly it does feel natural within the film’s narrative. Apart from that, the film executes a great job of showing the audience what effect uncovering this horrific story has on the reporters, victims and the families that surround them.

What started as one priest soon turns into a pattern, and as they begin to uncover more cases of priests sexually abusing children, the audience sees the consequences that this has on the reporters. Three decades of cover up by the Church begins to have an impact, McAdams’ character has a family member heavily invested into the church, d’Arcy James’ character finds that one of the priests lives very close to him and his family. It’s a story with very strong emotional beats, and an impressive pace that manages to not be bogged down by long, research heavy sequences.

The revelation comes early in the film, but it’s how the reporters find that this story is bigger than them, and Boston that will leave viewers on the edge of their seats. The payoff between speculation and revelation will have more impact than most set pieces in loud action movies.

McCarthy doesn’t do much creatively, instead focusing on powerful narrative story telling. Camerawork has its moments but isn’t groundbreaking in any sense. The cinematographer, Masanobu Takayanagi, pushes the camera back so we can see this ensemble cast bounce off one another, as they narrowly step through crowded newsrooms and close interview style shots.

The director and everyone involved in Spotlight has done true justice in remaining faithful to the real story here. There’s no truly ‘happy’ ending that will leave the viewer smiling as they walk out into the cinema foyer, but instead gives them something to mull over on the journey home.

Perhaps it’s Stanley Tucci’s character, Mitchell Garabedian, who gives the most memorable quote of the film:

“If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to abuse them.”

Should you see this film? If you’re in the profession or looking to find an insight into true journalism, certainly.



Feature image credit: Open Road Films

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