Review: Spotlight

By the time this film was released the majority of the world was aware of the scandal that hit to the heart of the Catholic Church and communities around the world and it had basically been turned into material for a joke, but this takes us back to the cold hard truth of the matter and how far spread these injustices really were. At the Boston Globe, Spotlight is a team of investigative journalists who specialise in scandals and scams happening around Boston, when their paper receives a new editor who points them in the direction of a criminally charged priest, they had no idea to the extent the length to which this story would go and how deeply it would impact not only Boston but the entire world of Catholicism. Directed by Tom McCarthy and starring Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Brian d’Arcy James, John Slattery, Stanley Tucci and Liev Schrieber.

There’s no denying that this film drew some major talent and the material drew some fantastic performances from each of the actors; Ruffalo is at the front of that with so much energy and compassion but also the way that he changes the way he walks and talks to further embody his character is wonderful. The most surprising of them is d’Arcy James, while apparently not being famous enough to get his name on the posters, he gives that little bit of comic relief to lighten the heavy weight of the film and gives a very relatable performance while being a vital part of the team. The performance that confuses me slightly was Slattery, his character coming across as slightly untrustworthy or slick when there seems to be no reason for it but perhaps that is just the interpretation of a man working in the paper industry. Being a serious story the powerful performances were inevitable, and each of them get their moment but especially with this story being relatively recent it gave the opportunity to research and even meet the real people they were portraying, which gave even more heft to their performances and is clearly evident.

Simply put, the plot is captivating from the get-go and before long at all you’re fully invested in the Spotlight team and discovering this dreadful story; this is definitely much helped by a well written script by McCarthy and Josh Singer, while neither have perfect records for their work in film, this time they knocked it out the park. The film takes a pace that is not too fast but that doesn’t stall and keeps moving forward, which works well given the subject, that moving too speedily through the material would not give it the respect that it needs. Though realistically the religion aspect takes a slight back seat, it’s certainly involved but the focus lies with not even the journalists but the victims, how their lives and beliefs were affected by their tragedies, which is exactly the right perspective to take. The story is not about who the employees of the Boston Globe were but what they were actually discovering and just how very long it took for all of this to come to light, and giving a sense of what people were actually going through. A particularly good factor is the resistance from glamorising the story and its characters, for example keeping them in a dingy office (which is actually a real office in the Boston Globe), and showing them as regular working people, which gives the film even more weight.

It’s really no surprise that Spotlight has been doing so well this award season, it’s a well written, directed and acted film that more than deserves the attention and accolades that go along with that. This puts the scandal into perspective, and does so in a respectable way without trying to use it to make money (although I’m sure it did make plenty), it shows the public what they needed to see, not that it was something removed but that it was happening all around and to a horrifying extent for a sickeningly long period of time. The film is highly engaging and harrowing with some terrific performances that manages to keep the story grounded and doing its best to stick to the events, which the Boston Globe itself called “superb”.

Verdict 8.5/10

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