By Jack Dignan
I couldn't review this film immediately after watching it. I wasn't ready to do that. Spotlight isn't the type of movie you watch and instantly get flooded with words. It's a film that takes all the words out of your mouth and leaves them spiralling around on the floor. This is not because I failed to make an opinion on the film, but is because the film is so shocking and real and I needed a moment to let it all sink in. I needed to digest this film. It's been a week now and I've finally come up with the words I need. Let's see how this goes.
Spotlight is the true story of a few of the journalists working at the Boston Globe during the early 2000s. They're part of the spotlight news team, who are essentially a team of investigators who spend, on average, a year on one particular case. Their team is led by Walter Robinson (Michael Keaton), but also consists of Mike Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), Sacha Pfieffer (Rachel McAdams) and a few other, not quite as important members. Their team manages to stumble across a scandal that's been taking place in the Catholic church for decades, involving the molestation of children by parish priests. As the team uncover more and more about this case, their findings may shake up the entire world.
I went to open this paragraph by stating that Spotlight is director Tom McCarthy's film through and through. I was going to say that he's the reason this film works. His direction and what he gets out of these actors is just insane. While this is true, I then took that sentence back, starting to realise that Spotlight, really, is Michael Keaton's film. He gives a performance not quite on the same level as Birdman, but easily the best performance in the film. Then I second guessed that and came to the realisation that Mark Ruffalo was the best thing about this movie, and this is easily his movie.
So, because of this strange complication, I have come to the conclusion that no one person holds this movie together. The brilliance of Spotlight does not lie in the hands of one particular human being, but instead, in the hands of the entire cast and crew. Everyone is pulling their weight, resulting in a movie that is not just one person's achievement, but everyone's. If Rachel McAdams wasn't in this, it wouldn't have been as good. If Tom McCarthy wasn't directing, it wouldn't have been as good. If Masanobu Takayanagi didn't do the cinematography, it wouldn't have been as good. Everyone came together perfectly.
Every actor in this movie just nails their performance, yet it never feels like a showcase of their talent. It never feels like a scene was placed into the film to give a character a monologue to show just how great an actor they are. The film is slow and quiet, everyone talking back and forth with each other. I have no problems with monologues or scenes that showcase acting skills for the sake of showcasing acting skills, but when a movie can get performances that are just as good, but without doing what you'd expect, then you've got to give it some credit, and this film does just that.
It may not be super fast or action packed, but it had me glued to the screen, invested in this shocking and revealing true story. Before watching this movie, I was never too familiar with the story, and I clearly had no idea just how big this thing got. As I watched, the case just got bigger and bigger and I was sitting there in utter awe and shock, wanting the case to come to an end, but not wanting the movie to be over. You know a movie's good when you want the plot to end and for everything to wrap up happily, but you don't want the actual film to come to a conclusion as you're enjoying it too much. That was me with this movie.
Despite my investment, the film is not without flaws. The film mostly consists of these characters going from interview to interview, trying to get all the information they need to crack down on the people responsible for letting these tragic events happen time and time again. This is engaging and all, but I couldn't help but find it to be a little bit repetitive. It's similar scene after similar scene and while they're all technically different, and they're all given a different feel, a lot of this movie is the same thing over and over again, but that's what happens when you're investigating things. That's the way the world is, the Spotlight captured the world as truthfully as possible.
To sum up, Spotlight is a fascinating, shocking and constantly engaging true story that brings together plenty of talent for a film that just falls together perfectly. The plot is very repetitive, but the film's just so interesting that it doesn't really matter too much.