Spotlight Review

News, Gory-ious News!

Director: Tom McCarthy. Cast: Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Brian d’Arcy James, Liev Schrieber, John Slattery, Stanley Tucci. Genre: Drama. Running Time: 129 minutes. Budget: $20 million. Rating: UK (15), USA (R)

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There’s an apparent love triangle between the city of Boston, crime and cinema which has produced some memorable films including Martin Scorsese’s Oscar winning mob tale The Departed (2006), Ben Affleck’s critically acclaimed heist flick The Town (2010) and Johnny Depp’s best work in years Black Mass (2015).

Spotlight continues the tradition but instead of organized crime in Boston, it tackles the city being plaguing by an even more despicable crime: the sexual abuse of children.

Based on a true story set in 2001, the film resolves around local newspaper The Boston Globe’s “Spotlight” team – a foursome of investigative journalists who gradually uncover the alarming amount of child abuse committed in Boston over the years at the hands of a frighteningly large number of Catholic priests. Not only have hundreds of kids been preyed upon but the abuse has been kept secret by the Catholic church, whose influence stretches wide across the city.

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New editor Martin Baron (Liev Schreiber) arrives from Miami to Boston with a fresh perspective and it’s his outsider’s view that puts the wheels in motion. After reading a small article about a serial offending paedophile priest, he puts the Spotlight team consisting of  Walter “Robby” Robinson (Michael Keaton), Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams), Mike Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo) and Matt Carroll (Brian d’Arcy James), on the task to unearth how the abuse was covered up.

Co-writer and director Tom McCarthy, who himself played a reporter in season 5 of The Wire, has a great handle on the world of journalism and pragmatically portrays the art of news-gathering by showing us the nitty-gritty elements of the job.  While Spotlight may be missing the stylistic flare found in other worthy journalism-based efforts such as All The President’s Men (1976) or Zodiac (2007), what it lacks in visual flashiness it more than makes up in great story-telling.

The film takes around 10 minutes to find its feet, but once the Spotlight team start to discover the hidden horrors of the systematic sexual abuse, the momentum starts to roll with fascinating force.

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As the Spotlight team delves deeper and deeper into the murky depths of the long existing scandal, the audience delve deeper and deeper into the film as you’ll find yourself absorbed in the reporters’ quest for justice like a sponge.

There’s a crucial sense of vivid energy in the mundane journalistic tasks as every phone call conversation, every flick through an archive book and every face to face interview carries the intensity and urgency of a high speed car chase or a mass shootout from an action thriller

Generally, McCarthy doesn’t rely on heart wrenching tropes such as an emotional score, hysterical victims in floods of tears or painful character backstories to hammer home the seriousness of the events or to shock viewers.

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Instead, the emotional impact of the awful events comes from the matter-of-fact quality of McCarthy and Josh Singer’s blunt yet sensitive script and the stunning and subtle performances of the stellar cast.

The entire ensemble are all on sensational form but it will most likely be Ruffalo who’ll be viewed as the standout.  His roles in The Kids Are Alright (2010) and Foxcatcher (2014) have earned him two previous Oscar nominations for Best Supporting Actor but Spotlight may prove that the third time’s the charm. Rezendes has a constant fidgetiness which stems from his hunger and desire for the story and Ruffalo magnificently captures his character’s relentless will.

spotlightruffaloMcAdams also received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress and for good reason as her Sacha shows vast levels of care and compassion when talking to victims.

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It’s quite surprising Keaton wasn’t also nominated for a golden statute as he was equally as deserving as his two co-stars were. After his tremendous work in Birdman (2014), his deeply layered performance as Spotlight leader Robby further ushers in the era of the Keatonaissance.

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Stage star Brian d’Arcy James is great too as you feel family man Matt’s troubling disgust when he discovers he’s living close to a paedophile priest.

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All four perfectly display personal and professional passion to get to the bottom of the scandal as increases as the film progresses.

Schreiber (who handled similar issues in the hit show Ray Donovan), John Slattery (Mad Men), Stanley Tucci and Billy Crudup all deserve credit for their small but pivotal roles.

As a journalism graduate from England it was nice to see journalists portrayed in a positive light, especially coming after the Leveson scandal which disgraced the UK newspaper industry (a fiasco which warrants a film itself).

Due to the outstanding cast, you’ll believe everything that transpires onscreen and root for the Spotlight crew like you’d root for your favourite sports team. As Spotlight arrives in UK cinemas it comes carrying a slew of Oscar nominations (including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay) and it’s thoroughly deserving of all seven nods. With this gripping drama, McCarthy undoubtedly redeems himself for last year’s comedy flop The Cobbler. He shines a bright light on a very dark topic and in the process tells an immensely intriguing story. Spotlight scores a:

8.75/10

Scores rating:

1ish –  2ish                   Stay away at ALL costs!!!

3ish – 4ish                    A bad film, not Michael Jackson Bad, but just straight up bad

5ish – 6ish                    Probably worth seeing at some point

7ish – 8ish                    A fantastic film definitely worth watching whenever you can

9ish -10                         Unmissable – go watch it now!!!

Check out the official trailer here:

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