Film Review – Spotlight (2015): Eddie’s Take

Spotlight 2015

Title – Spotlight (2015)

Director – Thomas McCarthy (The Station Agent)

Cast – Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Brian d’Arcy Jones, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, Stanley Tucci, Billy Crudup

Plot – The true life story of a small group of Boston Globe newspaper reporters led by Walter Robinson (Keaton) that investigated and reported on the Catholic Churches unethical treatment of abuse victims that suffered at the hands of their priests.

“For a paper to best perform its function, it really needs to stand alone”

Review by Eddie on 1/03/2016 (for Jordan’s take click here)

Well here we have it ladies and gentleman, 2016’s Best Picture winner!

Calling Spotlight an enjoyable film would be wrong due to its heavy subject matter, but Thomas McCarthy’s film is from the get-go an engaging and finely produced piece of filmmaking that aptly shines a light on a pivotal moment in journalistic history that changed the world’s views of Catholicism for ever.

Based on a true story, Spotlight sees McCarthy somehow wash himself clean of the stench that was The Cobbler and dust off any fears we may’ve therefore harboured for him as a filmmaker to deliver his most ambitious and loaded film to date, that also sees him for the first time handle such a powerful story and pedigree cast.

Famous for intimate character studies such as The Station Agent and The Visitor, McCarthy forgoes his tendency to delve into characters over scenarios to focus his story directly into the Boston Globe newspaper’s investigation into abuse cover up in the Catholic Church system. Doing so allows McCarthy to let the story take hold on the viewer and the enormity of the situation wash over us as we realise just what was being uncovered by these reporters, and without ever playing up situations for easy emotional pay offs, McCarthy delivers hits without an air of melodrama or cinematic tricks, no doubt aware that the material speaks for itself.

Saying that the story is the star player here would however take away from a finely tuned ensemble that’s led by another great Michael Keaton performance and both a reminder of Mark Ruffalo’s talents and Rachel McAdam’s ability when given the right substances to work with, although her Oscar nomination feels somewhat strange. Each actor brings a subtle nuance to their incarnations and they act as another telling example of McCarthy’s (an actor himself) ability to not only direct and write, but draw out excellent performances from his cast’s.

Spotlight is an astutely crafted investigation procedural that never strays to far from what you’d expect from such a tale but with a winning script and a likeable cast of performers it’s a high quality production that could’ve benefited ever so slightly from a larger focus towards the cinematic.

In light of this however, Spotlight is a quietly powerful and sometimes devastating look at a topic that continues to be played out daily in far too many cities around the world.

4 foreboding church buildings out of 5

P.S – on a side note I’ve had a few people ask me if Spotlight deserves the Best Picture Oscar and I would have to say went weighed up against films like The Revenant and Mad Max: Fury Road, films that in many ways to took far more risks than Spotlight did I would say the answer is no but it’s not at all surprising the Academy choose a topical film more than perhaps the “best’ film as they have form in this area.

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11 responses to “Film Review – Spotlight (2015): Eddie’s Take

  1. Pingback: Film Review – Spotlight (2015): Jordan’s Take | Jordan and Eddie (The Movie Guys)·

  2. Great review, although I cannot see how people can even compare Spotlight to the Revenant. I thought the Revenant was one of the weakest films of the Best Picture category. Acting great, cinematography great, but it does not work as a movie without such outstanding performances and cinematographic/camera expertise working on location.

    • Very interesting thoughts DB, I really enjoyed the Revenant as a cinematic experience, will be interesting in years to come to see how both that and Spotlight will be looked upon.
      E

  3. nice review! just watched this last night after its win; I agree, could have been exceptional with a bit more of a “focus on the cinematic” but I’m glad it didn’t go to the other extreme with a load of unnecessary character storylines and sentimentality. just a solid, well-acted, story-focused thriller!

    • That’s it mate it was just a solid and in some ways unspectacular event, in many ways it did everything you thought it would do and nothing more, nothing less.
      E

  4. Very solid film with powerful subject and quality acting all around, but out of all the Best Film nominees I’ve seen (everything except Bridge of Spies), it stood out to me the least. It’s solid in a way of a very good meat-and-potatoes. I didn’t care much for The Revenant or Leo’s performance, but at least that film felt distinctive. Spotlight will probably end up as one of those movie trivia questions where people struggle to remember what film won Best Film in 2016.

  5. Love how you pointed out that tidbit on McAdams. She’s seldom really given good material to work with. It definitely, like all the nominated film for Best Picture, another reason why it’s tough to classify what’s the best picture, even going back to the first few decades of this awards show. I’ve discovered of late, that among the nominees, each film has so many qualities that make it the best, and they don’t have to be because of big action and adrenaline, or some huge and magnificent vision. I hope that makes sense. I lost slight track of what I was typing. The rest of the review is great. I also love the mention about how the story wasn’t directly focused on character. It’s not like he or Singer ignored them, but this wasn’t a complete character study, as I feel the film would’ve needed to drag if that was the case. Watching the characters react as they did their jobs was insight enough, as it allowed tor us to see how they related to those around them and the world. I really gotta get to writing this review. Damn it!

    • Cheers for all the thoughts Steven, I really thought McAdams excelled in True Detective Season 2 and this was one of her better big screen roles.
      I will be keen to revisit this film down the track in a few years time, see how it holds up as a Best Picture winner.
      E

  6. I am not one to usually get my predictions for the Oscars right, but when I watched Spotlight I thought to myself “now here is the movie the Academy will give the Best Picture award to”. Honestly, I can’t say it was a bad choice; on the contrary, it was a very good one.

    I was sort of afraid they would hand over the main award for The Revenant, which has blatant pacing issues but has that highbrow philosophical undertone that makes some people – in my humble opinion – see it as some sort of smart movie and overlook its flaws. Spotlight is a far more engaging movie with a handful of performances that match those pulled off by DiCaprio and Hardy, the latter of which impressed me more than DiCaprio’s.

    I was obviously rooting for Mad Max, for aside from being FUN and great it also finds the time to perform a very unique kind of storytelling (yes, there is a plot and script there, it is just not handed to the audience on a silver platter) and move the action genre to new grounds. However, I was also aware it would never win such award, and with that being pretty clear in mind I am glad Spotlight won because, out of the remaining 7 movies that were running for the award, I felt it was by far the most complete and less flawed work.

    • Cheers for sharing your thoughts Matt, I must say the Aussie in me was cheering Max along but I had picked Spotlight all along! It’s a hard film to dislike.
      E

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