“It takes a village to raise them. It takes a village to abuse them.”
Even the deepest buried skeletons can be uncovered with a little perseverance. In 1974, a Boston priest is brought in to a police station on possible molestation charges, but they all get swept under the rug and nary a word is made.
Now in the year 2001, new editor of the Boston Globe Marty Brown (Liev Schrieber) becomes interested in revisiting the story after reading a column about a priest who is believed to have molested multiple children over 30 years. The task of finding the story and bringing it to the masses who may not actually want the story published fall on to the Spotlight team of the Globe, a four-person investigative reporting unit led by “Robby” Robinson (Michael Keaton), featuring Michael Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams), and Matt Carroll (Brian d’Arcy James).
Does real journalism exist now? Yours truly is probably the wrong person to ask this question (of course it still does, if one seeks it out), but it does seem like the glut of what exists today, likely as a part of our digital society, is extremely light on substance and research. Spotlight is a true-to-life and riveting film about what it took to bring an unbelievably horrific and decades-spanning happening out of the dark and into the light.
“True-to-life” may be a very strong choice of words, but perhaps here more than any other movie, Spotlight feels less like a cinema feature and more like a documentary. Even documentary may be the wrong word. I’d go so far to say that Spotlight feels akin to you and I observing employees doing their jobs. In this case, the audience is watching journalists Robinson, Rezendes, Pfeiffer, and Carroll attempt to deliver an earth-shattering story. Even though the subject matter and how it evolves how from an isolated incident to a full-on epidemic is a focus of Spotlight, the focus is simply the painstaking work of being an investigative reporter.
It may sound dull, but it is far from being so. The look at journalism, its inherent responsibilities, and the constant grit-and-grind and it takes to get a single investigative story published is fascinating. Yours truly always has had massive respect for those who are really in the field, and even more respect after viewing this. Director Tom McCarthy (The Cobbler—?!) is pretty basic style-wise in regards to adding anything eye-catching, but it may be a stylistic choice, keeping everything “as is” with no unnecessary frills or embellishment.
Then again, when guys like Stanley Tucci and John Slattery are appearing in the cast and billed around the six or seven slot, directorial frills may not be a necessity. The aforementioned two, Rachel McAdams, Brian d’Arcy James, Liev Schrieber, Mark Ruffalo, and Michael Keaton are all superb and extremely believable as a journalistic unit, with tons of well-written back and forth lines.
Perhaps the only small downside to them being so well oiled as a unit is the that, individually and for Oscar chances, they do not stand out as much. But these aren’t amazing, larger-than-life characters, nor should they be. They are people who are doing what they are hired to do, and that in of itself is refreshing with no external side romances, family issues, or the like.
If there is one person out of the awesome cast that does stand out, however, it, for my money, would be Ruffalo. His Renzendes character, like the others, isn’t one to be remembered for all time, but as the movie goes on, Ruffalo’s performance just sticks with the viewer, from his steadfastness in getting answers to his mannerisms in even just getting a cab and speaking with a lawyer. Back-to-back supporting nominations could be in the near future.
It’s great to see that McCarthy and Spotlight pay respect to those that finally brought needed attention and actual eyes to a dark chapter in the Archdiocese and ultimately the Roman Catholic church. In the form of a stellar film, Spotlight is also a great reminder that, in a world of TMZ’s and Perez Hilton’s, substantial journalism can still be had, and when it exists, we better take notice.
Photo credits go to ew.com, filmreporter.com, and usatoday.com.
Follow the Movie Man @MovieManJackson
Great review mate. I like movies that revolve around journalism and can’t wait til next year to see t his one
If you love journalism, you’ll revel in this mate!
ahhh stop teasing me! 😛 I gotta wait til mid-Jan to see this!
It is a damn fine film and my top pick of the year by a long shot. The only downside in my eyes, and this goes with the point you make about none of the actors really ‘standing out’ is that if there is a decision to be made as to whether there’ll be a Best Actor nomination for this film, the whole cast better be included on stage to accept the trophy. They are all brilliant. This is the definition of a collective effort
If Ruffalo/Keaton do get a nom for Best Actor, absolutely. This is like the 2004 Detroit Pistons beating the LA Lakers in the NBA Finals. Complete team effort.
I could see Ruffalo getting a nom and potentially winning in Best Supporting Actor, though. He just grew on me throughout, and of course, he gets the scene that is effin beautiful.
An absolutely overwhelming movie. When writing my review a couple of weeks back I couldn’t stop talking about it. Such strong ensemble work and perfect storytelling. Love it!
Loved the movie.. 2 things.. we disagree on Ruffalo..his ‘Jimmy Olsen’ antics of movement annoyed me. and the 2nd is more of a venting of my own..ha! I went to a screening w/Q & A afterwards w/dir & prod. and most of the time the audience stays to listen. I was never more pissed than 1/2 the people getting up & leaving at the end. SO DISRESPECTFUL!! I just thought..if you know what the story matter is and don’t like it..then don’t come see the film. but to be so disrespectful & leave because I’m guessing they didn’t like the subject matter or are religious in some way..is just wrong..sorry..my own little venting there because it was a good film that deserves respect.
I loved his antics, probably cause I didn’t consider them as antics!
As to your second point, that is so disrespectful, especially if they didn’t pay for anything as it is a screening. Paying for your ticket is one thing, but show some courtesy if you’re there for free.
Nice review. The praise for this film is pretty overwhelming and it looks to be the frontrunner for awards season. So I’m pretty stoked for this.
Well deserved, too. A superb cast with an intriguing concept and perfect runtime. Easily one of the best of the year.
Excellently written review, I’m seeing this movie in cinemas soon.
Interested to see your thoughts, man!. It’s an excellent ensemble.
I’ll be sure to tell you what I thought of it.
I saw the movie yesterday and it was excellent. All the cast were on great form, creating convincing portrayals of these reporters and their desire to bring the story out of the dark.
Out of the movies I’ve seen nominated for Best Pic, this is my fav (have yet to see Room, sadly :(). It would get my vote for Best Pic, followed by Mad Max, The Big Short, and The Revenant.
I reviewed it as well, here’s the link. https://vinnieh.wordpress.com/2016/02/11/spotlight/