Spotlight (Review)


⭐⭐⭐⭐ (Excellent)

Director: Tom McCarthy
Starring: Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, Brian D’Arcy James, Billy Crudup, Stanley Tucci
Certificate: 15
Run Time: 129 mins

‘Spotlight’ is a drama film that delves into the true story of how the Boston Globe’s, ‘Spotlight’ team uncovered the massive scandal of child molestation by Roman Catholic priests and cover-up within the Catholic church. It is directed by Tom McCarthy, a very versatile individual who is best known for directing ‘The Station Agent’ and ‘The Visitor’ , co-writing Disney Pixar’s, ‘Up’ and taking small roles in films from time to time. However a big mis-step for him was directing ‘The Cobbler’ with Adam Sandler which came out earlier in the year and is universally agreed as one of the worst films of the year. Anyway, McCarthy is finally getting recognised for his work with this film which has impressed critics and audiences alike. It is one of the frontrunners to win the coveted Best Picture Academy Award but ‘The Revenant’ will probably pip it to the post.

‘Spotlight’ is an excellent film and really showcases the best in Tom McCathy from his close direction to the excellent, tightly-packed script. The cast are wonderful and it manages to deal with such a sensitive subject matter in a very entertaining and satisfying fashion and once it gets going after establishing a context, it rip-roars right through to the end. However, my only criticism is that it doesn’t do a lot to set itself apart from other films of this genre. It follows the tried-and-tested formula all the way, as entertaining and satisfying as it is.

The acting ensemble is where ‘Spotlight’ excels at – there is not one bad performance here. Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams are the standouts here, the latter a career-best, and consequently both have received Academy Award nominations. Michael Keaton, Brian D’Arcy James and Stanley Tucci are also very good here and Liev Schreiber gives one of his best performances in years despite his role being quite a small one.

The story is particularly powerful and thanks to the cast, are able to convey the shock and betrayal that they feel. There is a particularly powerful scene about half-way into the film when the team uncovers information that this has gone on for years and the shock that they feel is so realistic and we too, as an audience, can empathise. McCarthy does seem to restrain himself with the script as there are so many instances where he could dig into the incompetence of the Catholic Church but always holds himself back – this is a film that just wants to lay the facts out. However, whilst the main ensemble are very well developed, the victims and Priests themselves are rather underdeveloped and I think if McCarthy had chosen to flesh out these characters a little more, it would have made the film more satisfying.

Howard Shore’s score for the film is one of his best in a long time and Masanobu Takayanagi’s cinematography adds another credit to his repertoire after also doing a good job of Scott Cooper’s, ‘Out of the Furnace’ and ‘Black Mass’. Takayanagi uses lots of white and grey to portray Boston, perhaps juxtaposing the innocent white with the increasing guilt that the investigators feel from the Catholic Church covering everything up.

Although ‘Spotlight’ doesn’t break any new ground as a film, it is still an enthralling and totally engaging watch once it gets going, thanks to its fine performances and assured direction. Whilst Ruffalo and McAdams have landed Acting nominations, I don’t think they will win them as their performances haven’t been singled out so much compared to others but the film does have a shot at success for its fantastic screenplay. ‘Spotlight’ could also very well end up being the film that takes the Best Picture Academy Award and if it does, I will have no complaints at all. A very good effort from all involved.

⭐⭐⭐⭐ (Excellent)

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