Spotlight Review

Everyone please direct your attention to Spotlight because it deserves it. Odds are you’ve heard of it as the favourite in the Oscar race, and while it may be a conventional Oscar bait film, it still has an important message and a great ensemble cast.

Spotlight (2015) is directed by Tom McCarthy and boasts an all-star cast with the likes of Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, John Slattery and Stanley Tucci. It follows the story of how the Boston Globe exposed the massive cover-up of child molestation by Priests conducted by the Catholic Church. To put it bluntly, this is a fascinating narrative. Child molestation is still very much in the public consciousness and the story behind the initial reveal is not only interesting but also relevant. McCarthy and Josh Singer (the screenwriters) take an investigative angle and tone that grounds the work conducted by the reporters with an authentic feel. Its singular focus on the investigation is a smart decision. Because of the grounded tone, it constantly reminds the audience this is a true story and so makes the layers of this horrific phenomenon considerably more shocking. The screenplay isn’t flashy or stylish, but instead very respectful and keeps the focus on the performances and the issue itself.

Considering the talented ensemble at Spotlight‘s core, its unsurprising that everyone delivers a solid performance. Keaton and Slattery play the overseers of the investigation and both showcase a level of subtly and reserve that works well with the screenplay. The same can be said for the rest of the cast, as Tucci and McAdams both feel as if they are portraying real people rather than properly acting. The only performance that stands out is Ruffalo and while its not bad, its theatrical in a way that the other performances aren’t. It may be true to life, but in several scenes it doesn’t fit the grounded tone and makes the film feel too much like a high-emotion drama (which it is not). I wouldn’t call it a serious flaw but its worth mentioning.

While people may immediately look at Spotlight as typical Oscar bait, those people would still be hard-pressed to not acknowledge that it was a film worth making. It has an important contemporary problem at its heart that is showcased and elevated by a reserved screenplay and cast. While there’s not particularly anything innovative here, anyone who’s even lightly interested in journalism, the issue itself or simply wants to see a well-made true-story drama, shine a light on Spotlight. 

General Audiences: Must-see

Film Buffs: Highly Recommended

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