Monday, November 23, 2015

[Review] Spotlight

Tom McCarthy's filmography runs the gamut from the underrated and heartwarming dramedy Win Win, to the Adam Sandler dud The Cobbler. This year's Spotlight is a dead serious "Based on Actual Events" film with an excellent cast, and it's almost certainly due for some Oscar recognition.

The film focuses on a group of Boston Globe journalists (most notably played by Michel Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, and Brian d'Arcy James) who are on the cusp of exposing the widespread and long-running problem concerning sexual abuse by priests within the Catholic church, and the shady cover-ups that follow. The journalists embark on institution investigations, legal quarrels, and gatherings of difficult-to-hear accounts from the disgustingly expansive list of victims--in order for the newspaper to present their church-shattering story to the public.

The ensemble cast here is about as good as it gets, and they're all on their 'A' game. Michael Keaton, coming off his great Birdman performance, continues his solid late career run. Rachel McAdams (who was stellar in #TrueDetectiveSeason2) seems to be deviating from the rom-coms and romances lately and it's worked out mightily well. Liev Schreiber and John Slattery ("Mad Men") also demonstrate some nice turns as editors. While Spotlight doesn't have a clear lead performer (which might cause splits amongst Academy voters), Mark Ruffalo emerges as the standout--partially because his character is given the most to do, and he comes off as the most passionate of the bunch. As I've mentioned in the past, it's so much more invigorating to see Mark Ruffalo in settings like this, rather than the blockbuster Avengers series.

None of the characters in Spotlight are characterized as self-indulgent, wannabe heroes that are capitalizing off of something nasty. They're essentially just doing their every day jobs, but they care about the matter and are hellbent on telling the story correctly and in a way where it won't just be swept under the rug. The narrative begins a bit slow and regularly procedural, and you might initially wonder why the film is garnering so much praise, but it eventually takes hold as more & more details are found. Like the reported story, the film profiles an ill of society, while also working as a rigorous task of important journalism. Spotlight focuses on a very specific time at the turn of the century, but it doesn't just place it into a capsule. The final scenes of constant phone-ringing remind us that this is an ongoing issue.

* 9/10 *

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