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Spotlight – Review

 
 
Overview
 

Release Date: 25 November 2015 [USA]
 
Director: Tom McCarthy
 
Writer: Josh Singer - Tom McCarthy [Screenplay]
 
Cast: Mark Ruffalo - Michael Keaton - Rachel McAdams
 
Direction
 
 
 
 
 


 
Writing
 
 
 
 
 


 
Performance
 
 
 
 
 


 
Sound & Music
 
 
 
 
 


 
Cinematography
 
 
 
 
 


 
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3.5/5


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Posted February 1, 2016 by

 
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Sputlight Review:

Be it with its subject matter, the names attached or the very impressive list of wins and nominations, even at first glance Spotlight has every hallmark of a true heavyweight. The subject matter invariably means that the pressure is on, mainly for two reasons. First of all, the subject matter is sensitive. It is sensitive due to its very nature and it is sensitive due to the fact that it is a true story. This is the story of a cover up that ruined lives consistently for decades. It needs to be told with clarity and sensitivity. Secondly, the film cannot seem to rely on its story to get away with filmmaking murder – so to speak. It must, in short, live up to a lot of steep challenge this particular story sets its filmmakers.

Spotlight tells the story of four journalists working for the investigative team – Spotlight – of The Boston Globe. In 2001, the team exposed a cover up that reached all the way to the highest levels of the city’s religious and legal authorities . What starts out as a hunch thrown out by the newspapers new editor will ultimately end up pitching the newspaper against some of the most influential and powerful institutions of the city. And even though the story seems to be aching to be released, doing so in a way that will bring all the responsible parties to justice will be far from easy.

Director Tom McCarthy has done an admirable job of telling this sensitive true story with strength and quality. McCarthy has already received recognition (not to mention an Oscar nomination) for his writing in 2010 with his work on the script for Pixar’s much beloved classic, Up. Spotlights handling of the abuse scandal that shook the religious establishment, first in Boston but then – eventually – all around the world is equally touching, yet tasteful. No garish footage, re-enactment or additional demonization is used. What we have in its stead are some very touching verbal accounts from the victims and the portrayal of the priests – and the men covering up for them – as surprisingly similar to regular, upstanding citizens of the community. In the face of such horrific crimes, the temptation may well have been to demonise, however, Spotlight doesn’t fall into that trap. The fact is that the men who had committed these crimes are not cartoon monsters. They just seem so ordinary, which is perhaps the most frightening thing of all…

The other truly remarkable thing about this film is, it needs to be said, the acting. Mark Ruffalo is up for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor as Mike Rezendes, one of the four journalists on the investigation, truly shines. On a personal note, my admiration for Ruffalo grows practically every time I see him in a film. He brings the dogged and passionate Rezendes – who ultimately ended up being the one who wrote the story – to life adroitly. As for the other Oscar nominee of the cast, Rachel McAddams, she is fantastic to watch as Sacha Pfeiffer – the only lady on the team of journalists.

One thing that needs to be pointed out is that while the characters in the film are three dimensional and very real, there is a slight one-sidedness to the story. Yes, it probably is realistic that these career journalists by and large lived for their jobs, were workaholics and by and large neglected their home lives. Throughout the film there are various hints at these problems but the families of the journalists – with the exception of a cameo by Sacha’s husband- are almost completely absent. This is, of course, a directorial choice as well. On the one side it may well be considered a rather hackneyed trope to use the old, neglected partner side line because a- it really will not do much towards advancing the story and b- it has been used within an inch of its life. I am not sure what the solution actually is, but it would have been cool to know a tiny bit more about them, as opposed to just see their work lives. But then again, this is not the story of the journalists, rather the story of the scandal they discovered and exposed so honestly, the debate is open…

Spotlight is definitely a strong contender in awards season. It is also an important film, a film that was almost overdue to the thousands of people whose voices have gone unheard and unheeded for far too long. Definitely go and see it. And if my experience is anything to by, take a couple of tissues.

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Sedef Hekimgil
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Essie Speaks
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