So I watched Spotlight…
I once went to watch a movie with my cousin. After the film, we walked home and it was about halfway to our respective homes that we realised that we hadn’t spoken about the film we had just seen, at all. We both took that as an indication of how good (or rather bad) the movie was. It’s a principle I still use today. Now most of the time I go to the cinema alone but on the way home I sit and talk to myself (no, I’m not insane) about the movie and start planning out my review. The longer the conversation with myself, the more impactful/better the film. I was talking about Spotlight all the way home, I thought about it at dinner, as I prepared for bed, it was even on my mind the next morning. This is probably one of the most impactful movies I’ve ever seen in my life.
Okay, basic plot: in 2001 The Boston Globe hires a new editor – Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber) – to revitalise the paper. After Baron reads an article from the Globe that states that Cardinal Law (the Archbishop of Boston) knew that one of his priests was sexually molesting a boy and did nothing about it, Baron recognises the need for this story to be properly investigated. He assigns Spotlight – a small group of investigative journalists at the newspaper famous for their extensive and prolonged research of stories – to follow up the story. The team begin their investigation into the accused priest but soon find that he isn’t alone in his perverse actions. The team uncovers a pattern of molestation and cover-ups that extends from the church to their lawyers, to the courts and even the police. A story which initially focused on the wrongdoings of one priest turns into a full blown inquiry into the sexual crimes of over ninety priests across the city.
This film is powerful! Not only that, this film is also extremely well made. Often there isn’t a fair balance between these two aspects with powerful stories being sloppily produced or vice versa; but this film manages to hit a homerun in both domains. Director, Tom McCarthy tells this story with an incredibly focused style with wonderful pacing. The film is constantly in motion and is a great example of how a two-hour runtime can be justified. The story dictates the length of the film and when the story comes to a head and you feel like it’s time for the movie to end – it ends. There are no unnecessary scenes stuck on to the end or elongated moments of closure. This film is lean, streamlined and extremely functional.
Now functional doesn’t mean boring. This film’s entertainment value is astounding. The majority of this film chronicles the various journalists’ work as they research and compile evidence in preparation for the publishing of this story. Now you’d expect this to be boring but it’s somehow incredibly captivating. I didn’t know the full extent of this story going into this film, so watching the different characters pull back the shroud on the network of paedophilia that the Catholic Church had created was fascinating. You find things out at the same time as the characters and this helps you feel very involved in the story and its eventual outcome. I also enjoyed this because it really felt like the characters were driving the plot forward. A problem I had with The Big Short – which is similar to this film (in terms of genre) – is that its characters were just along for the ride; but Spotlight’s characters are firmly in the driver’s seat directing the plot.
I was completely transfixed by this film and the way that it – pardon the pun – shone a spotlight on how far the corruption needed to keep these kind of crimes secret extended. There’s a great quote in the film where a character says, “if it takes a village to raise a child, then it takes a village to abuse one.” I love how honest this film and the real life newspaper team were and how they weren’t afraid to assign blame to those responsible – even members of their own team. When I stood up to leave the theatre I felt sickened. It’s just so disturbing to imagine that people in the trusted positions that these priests were in could warp their power and use it to destroy the lives of so many. You then remember that this isn’t just a movie but factual testimony and you feel like losing faith in all humanity.
The acting and collective cast in this movie are awe-inspiring. Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams show that their Academy Award nominations weren’t erroneously awarded. There’s a scene where Ruffalo’s acting is so breathtaking that it actually moved me to tears. He held nothing back and I’m rooting for him to get his little gold statue. But really, the entire cast is brilliant. Michael Keaton, Billy Crudup and – the criminally underrated – Stanley Tucci put in solid, grounded performances. Liev Schreiber was another standout and I think the only reason people aren’t praising his performance as extensively as they should is only because his character spends so much time in the periphery. The numerous actors who portrayed the surviving victims were also outstanding. They’re the real linchpin that holds this story together.
Overall, Spotlight is one of the best movies to come out of 2015. It’s made with not only real respect to the shocking reality of the subject matter but also a refreshing sense of entertainment that can often be lacking from films of this nature. It’s a thought-provoking masterpiece whose social relevance is impossible to deny. Watch this fim 10/10