Directed by Tom McCarthy
Starring Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Brian d’Arcy James, Liev Schreiber, Stanley Tucci
Review by Jordan (for Eddie’s take click here)
A film such as Spotlight is decidedly tricky to critique, as in a similar manner to documentaries you’re drawn to discussing the subject matter post viewing and not the vehicle itself.
One could argue that even a poorly made documentary can inspire thought if the topic is interesting enough, so does the fact that this drama, about the unspeakable acts perpetrated by the Catholic Church, will ignite strong emotions in its viewers mean that in direct relation to this it’s well made? Or in this case is the topic, being one that thoroughly deserves exposure, of enough interest to people that they will overlook the crafting and production of a movie that of itself is not exceptional?
Nominated for Best Picture at the 2016 Academy Awards, Spotlight is a good film, purposefully directed by Tom McCarthy (whose 2014 effort The Cobbler now seems a distant memory) and well cast in all roles. It showcases the investigative unit at The Boston Globe in an insightful manner, and is most impressive when it focusses on the emotional toll and subsequent second burst of motivation the escalating case has on the seasoned band of journalists. Mark Ruffalo and Michael Keaton are particularly impressive in their roles, as their characters are given the most scope and a shared tension arises at a pivotal moment.
The script moves at a breakneck pace, and this is where the issues begin arising. Being a narrative wholly reliant on conversations, confessions and characters, it can be difficult if essential information is provided in a passing utterance and missed among every word crammed into the sentence; one particular recurring, and important character was introduced at a time when I was still reflecting on the understated, powerful opening, and I spent a good deal of time then figuring out his role and relationship with others. This style makes absolute sense here, but it is no coincidence that the occasional quiet, personal moments were the most memorable and more of them would’ve been welcomed.
There are times too when the writing uncovers the most basic of flaws, such as in a scene where Cardinal Law is discussing his preference for the Church and newspaper to work together for the good of the community with new editor Marty Baron, and just as they’ve each shared their opposing thoughts and an awkward silence is sure to follow, a secretary knocks to push the scene, and dialogue, along. It’s not unreasonable to notice these often employed techniques, as they show that some films will be recognised for what they present, others for their precision craftsmanship where the viewer is too entrenched to have their focus broken, and the very best for both.
Spotlight will get people talking, and as it comes to a close in an eye opening pre-credits sequence its clear thats it’s intention, but when you witness all the committed talent on display it’s clear that although whats produced is important, the subsequent potential has not fully been reached.