Diversions

“Spotlight” Film Review

 

By Murphy Kenefick, Staff Writer

4.5 out of 5 stars

 

Spotlight.jpg

Rachel McAdams, Michael Keaton and Mark Ruffalo star as Sacha Pfeiffer, Walter ‘Robby’ Robinson and Michael Rezendes in the new drama “Spotlight.” Photo courtesy of Kerry Hayes/Open Road Films

It is not everyday that a movie makes you consider changing your college major. When faced with constant moral imperatives, the journalists that this film revolves around insist on a call to action that is hard to resist.

The film, based on real events, follows the “Spotlight” group at the Boston Globe, a team of four people that investigates bigger stories that take years to develop. In 2001, these reporters looked into the Catholic Church and the claims of child molestation that had been going on as an epidemic for decades. Faced with a new boss and major pushback from the church, the team has to continue to pursue the truth.

A seemingly familiar and bland subject, director Tom McCarthy manages to make the story come alive.

Immaculately balanced, with topics ranging from objective to emotional, personal to professional, “Spotlight” never misses a beat. With a consistent tone pulsing through every confrontation and investigation, the story chugs along, never losing steam or interest. This grip on the audience was elevated by the actors’ natural and passionate performances, especially from Keaton, Ruffalo and to a more sporadic extent, Tucci, who stole every scene he was in. They play their characters perfectly, with great emotion and earnestness but never schmaltz.

McCarthy’s direction is smooth and contained, lighting up offices, making them feel clean but never sterile. His scope is intimate, yet factual, creating the perfect equity that newspapers attempt to have. He gives a dose of facts and personal fear/fury that gives the audience the evidence to be invested.

With this kind of subject matter, there is an extra level of sensitivity involved. When interviewing the victims, there was never any condescension or exploitation that there easily could have been. Where other films or television shows would have relied upon that kind of screenplay, “Spotlight” takes the high road, treating everyone involved with respect except the church, who they go after with a steady tenacity. That is where the main pathos lies, along with the attachment to the characters and the various ways that they go after the criminals. While unsettling, “Spotlight” is  ultimately gratifying.

Overall, if this does end up being our next Best Picture winner, as many prognosticators have predicted, I’d be extremely satisfied. It works as a crowd-pleaser and a tale of moral inspiration. Filled with great performances and a sharp screenplay, “Spotlight” is nearly perfect.

BONUS POINTS: Richard Jenkins’ (uncredited) voice, the managing of the victims’ stories and the fact that John Slattery’s character, Ben Bradlee Jr., is the son of Ben Bradlee, the head editor in “All the Presidents Men” who broke open the Watergate scandal.

NEGATIVE POINTS: Why was it rated R?

 

 

 

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