Spotlight, directed by Tom McCarthy is a film that before anything else puts its story first, as it should. There is almost no superfluous content within Spotlight – in fact there are moments where it could perhaps do with some. This is a film that has an important story to tell and it just goes out and does it, and does it well. Now perhaps there are some minor but crucial elements missing, but when it is all said and done, Spotlight is a film that feels like it achieved its purpose.
Spotlight is the real life story of a group of 4 Boston Globe journalists – Mike Rezendes, played by Mark Ruffalo, Walter Robinson, played by Michael Keaton, Matt Carol, played by Brian d’Arcy James and Sacha Pfeiffer, played by Rachel McAdams. The 4 journalists take on the unlikeable task of investigating the cover up of Catholic Priests who are suspected of molesting young children and how multiple institutions seemed to be complicit in sweeping whole thing far under the rug.
So as I’ve already said Spotlight is first and foremost about getting its story across. From the first scene to its last, Spotlight dedicates 100% of its run time to telling the shocking and rage inducing story, and when the credits rolled and it was time to leave, I was of course depressed because the subject matter is so deplorable, but also (and interestingly) I could have easily watched another 30 to 40 minutes on top of the 2 hour run time. This is certainly a story that – while upsetting – is still something you can’t turn away from watching.
I mean I was actually surprised at how dedicated the film was to the story. What I mean by that is usually a film like this will have sub-plots that range from interesting to unnecessary – not Spotlight. Now this decision does let the film down in some aspects (which I’ll get to in a moment) but for the most part it is what makes Spotlight such an engaging watch, and also one that is worthy of the award season recognition it is getting. This is one of those stories where the more eyes you get it on front of the better.
But how could focusing so tightly on a story like this diminish it in other ways? Well I think the thing that jumps out immediately is the lack of any solid exploration into our main cast of characters. On one side I get it, you don’t want any distractions, and it wouldn’t be right to have one scene about a victim pouring their heart out about the terrible things that happened to them as a child and then switch over to a happy family around a table, but then on the other hand I would have really liked some development of the 4 main characters. I personally think it would have helped to bring some breathing space to the film (mainly for the audience’s sake).
What’s odd are the points in the film where it felt like it would have been more than a fine time to introduce the everyday lives our main characters, but instead it passes over the opportunity with some awkwardly placed dialogue. Our 4 main characters are important to the film, so it was a little disappointing to get no tangible insight into who they were.
Why I also would have liked more for the main 4 is because Spotlight is headlined by a great group of actors, all who more than help bring you into the film. Mark Ruffalo especially delivers a performance that for me was the main beating heart of the film. Now that’s not to take away from the other actors in the film (except John Slattery who has one tone of voice for delivering his lines and by god he had no intention of speaking any different, no matter the context of the conversation). But despite that little aside this is a film that chose well with its actors and its actors did more than well when their performances are concerned.
Character wise, the film also offers up characters who are directly involved with the scandal, whether in covering it up or having been a victim. These moments give some of the most powerful and heart breaking scenes within the film – while still being handled with a level of dignity. Which brings me onto something that I think highlights why this film is getting the recognition it is right now.
Spotlight isn’t the easiest film to digest (because of its content of course) but what I thought was the best decision by director Tom McCarthy and his team was how they never had the film feel emotionally forced or heavy handed. Even when the tragedy of 9/11 is introduced into the fold, it never felt like it was trying to unfairly push an emotional state of mind upon me. Everything is continually handled in a way that seems fair and upfront – which could have easily not happened, especially for a film of this nature.
Spotlight is an important film, a film that should certainly have the platform that it does right now. While the film is missing some elements that I think would have elevated it even more, it still manages to give something memorable and eye opening.
I will certainly be recommending Spotlight. See this film and share it with other people. It is an important story throughout and one that will certainly stay with you for some time.
So what are your thoughts on Spotlight? Let me know in the comments down below. To keep up with my other reviews you can follow me on Twitter – @GavinsTurtle. All that’s left to say is have a good week and thanks for reading this.