With its subject matter (investigative journalism) and the incredible acclaim from critics, I went into Spotlight with dangerously high expectations. While I didn’t come away disappointed, Spotlight won’t be my favourite film of the year (which might be because of those expectations - sigh).
Yet another based-on-true-events film, Spotlight tells the story (spoiler alert?) of a group of investigative journalists working for the Boston Globe in 2001 who uncover a mega-scandal in the Catholic church when they discover that more than seventy priests in Boston alone have been sexually abusing children over the past few decades. But that’s not the scandal. The scandal is that the church hierarchy was aware of these abuses and not only covered it up, but allowed the priests to continue their work after moving them to another location. The local district attorney is also implicated for making plea deals with the church that keep the abuses confidential (i.e. covered-up).
The story moves along in a fairly straightforward way, showing us how each of the reporters contributed to the exposé, but the intelligent and gripping screenplay is well-written and well-paced and Tom McCarthy’s direction is quiet and tight. I particularly appreciated the avoidance of sensationalism and also the way the filmmakers avoided demonizing the men responsible, even showing some of their positive attributes. The cinematography and score are not extraordinary, but do the job.
The ensemble cast is terrific, with Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams and Brian d’Arcy James as the reporters, Liev Schreiber as the editor, John Slattery as the boss and Stanley Tucci as a lawyer who helps them. Schreiber stood out, surprising me with his nuanced and understated performance as the person who pointed the Spotlight team to this investigation. Noteworthy are the physical characteristics displayed by the actors in their portrayals, providing insight into each of the characters, though one complaint I have is that we see too little of the characters’ home lives.
I very much appreciated the inspiring way investigative journalism was presented in Spotlight, I loved all of the characters in the office (all good people trying to do something vital) and I loved the way the film ended. I have already praised the film’s quiet intelligence, though I can’t help thinking a little more passion might have been a good thing.
Spotlight is a suspenseful and important film which gets an easy **** and will surely make my top ten films of 2015. My mug is up.