Spotlight – film review by Calum Maclean
Directed by Tom McCarthy
Cast – Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, Brian d’Arcy James, Stanley Tucci, Billy Crudup and an uncredited voice cameo from Richard Jenkins.
Arguably the biggest surprise of the 88th Academy Awards was the Best Picture victory for Spotlight. The film had already secured Best Original Screenplay, but momentum seemed to be building for The Revenant to take the top prize. My reaction on reading the news this morning was a brief moment of bemusement before the memory of Tom McCarthy’s drama returned to me and made clear sense.
Beginning in 2001, Spotlight tells the true story of the Boston Globe journalists whose investigation into child abuse by Catholic clergy led to the uncovering of systemic worldwide molestation and cover-ups. The film examines the culture of silence that enabled decades of such abuse, whether by the overwhelmingly Catholic majority of Boston society, or by powerful institutions closely entwined with the church
Spotlight boasts an impressive ensemble cast with no clear lead performance. Instead, the actors operate much like their real life counterparts, working as a team in service of the story. Every character is authentically underplayed, which gives a real impact to the moments of more intense dialogue as the investigation moves into victim testimony and tensions mount.
A possible criticism of the film could be with its pacing. Since the story takes place at the beginning of the 21st century, (only fifteen years ago but almost an entirely other world of paper files and door to door reporting), there is a methodical attention to detail in the film. At times this can seem a little glacial but it does serve to portray the level of thorough investigative caution necessary in tackling such dark subject matter around a powerful symbol of faith.
Four weeks after watching Spotlight, the film still crosses my mind. Not quite to the extent of Room, which is my personal favourite of the Best Picture nominees, but Spotlight remains a close second and a very worthy winner. Now that its profile will have been further raised by the Oscar win, there should be plenty of screenings, so go and see it if you haven’t already.
Calum Maclean – 29 February 2016.
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