Directed by Tom McCarthy
Starring Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams
The newsroom drama could become its own genre this year with a slew of based-on-real-life flicks hitting the big screen. Telling a true story, especially one that lived in front of viewers worldwide, can be a hard sell. It either becomes too emotional, disconnecting itself from the memories of viewers, or too stale. In this day and age of media at our fingertips, eliciting the minds and hearts of an audience needs to be something more than a glorified re-telling of events of which we're already aware. In Spotlight, actor-turned-director Tom McCarthy chooses to let the hot-button story be a supporting character and allows the team behind the story to step onto the stage as its stars.
A print newsroom is one of constant battles for information, ego trips with higher-ups, and self-ascribed passionate investigators trying to break a story so delicately as to gather the most information without tipping off the opponent. For the Boston Globe, its prized Spotlight team unravels the truth behind, what becomes, a massive scandal involving the Catholic Church and its response to decades of child molestation cases. Rich in tradition, the Boston readership is one with the clergy at question. With corporate unsure of the scope of a project such as this, and fearful of the magnitude of bad press it could create, the true fight becomes one of morals and empathy for the victims. What begins as an investigative journalism story becomes a heart-wrenching war of good and evil twisted by the fact that what's evil should be considered good.
The report and ensuing news coverage was second in the grand scheme of news stories from the last decade (9/11 being the obvious choice for first place). Where Spotlight shines is in its subtle introduction of the story's elements, without ever overshadowing the complete story. It never forgives or lessens the acts done by priests and covered up by the local Catholic Archdiocese, but allows the momentum to build in such a way that each time our trusted news team uncovers a new realization, we're just as shocked, despite the fact that we already know the story.
Much of the ebb and flow of Spotlight can be attributed to McCarthy's gentle direction. The film never feels bigger than it is or that it's trying to be bigger than it is. Which is a good thing, especially when you look at the cast. Michael Keaton plays similar to his hard-worked character in Birdman, minus the crazed mindset. Rachel McAdams has never seemed so stripped away. She offers the best glimpse at a full study and implementation of a character throughout the whole film. Mark Ruffalo is the one weak link. His attempt at diving into a character with clear attributes limits his ability to sell each moment. It seems to become more about his slighted accent (that comes and goes) than what he's doing or the words he's saying. Stanley Tucci, Liev Schreiber, and Billy Crudup shine in their small, but pivotal roles. Tucci could end up seeing some awards chatter.
Other elements sit to the wayside. This is a film just as much about its characters as it is about offering a glimpse into an unfortunate and disheartening event. Like I said before, the main focus here is the personal battles each member of our news team faces in uncovering facts and fighting for the truth. But, of course, at the end, it's the events themselves that go on to live. The stories always outlive the ones who tell them. Before the final credits roll, as the epilogue of the film begins, the true horror of the situation shows its ugly face. The stunted breaths and gasps of the audience as the actual grand scope of the damage done is what makes this film stick you beyond any other facet of filmmaking.
Spotlight isn't a film you'll want to watch over and over again, but it is one you must see at least once.
Runtime: 128 minutes