Based on real life events, Spotlight deals with the high profile Boston Catholic sex abuse scandal and the group of Boston Globe investigative journalists who brought it to light in early 2002.
Spotlight finds a quick resurgence from the potential fall from grace that was last year’s The Cobbler for otherwise acclaimed director/writer Tom McCarthy (The Station Agent, The Visitor, Win-Win). The film also boasts an incredible ensemble cast including, but definitely not limited to: Batman/Birdman (Michael Keaton), The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), and Sabretooth (Liev Schreiber).
Up there with the last season of The Wire, Spotlight is one of the most fascinating and engaging works about modern journalism I have ever seen. Amplified by strong performances and sharp writing, the film breathtakingly brings to life the unraveling of one of the darker moments in recent history. Not only does it delve deep into the grueling journalistic process, it also manages to avoid black-and-white characterization by presenting the morals and ethics surrounding this particular case on a wider spectrum.
Considering the immense, decades-worth of information on the case and the reporting of it, the film does an excellent job at delivering all of the necessary details in an even, well-paced manner. It doesn’t incomprehensibly streamline every little known fact about the case nor does it provide us with mere bullet point narrative. Instead, it thrives in a satisfying middle ground that allows the story’s scope of importance to be fully realized, all the while being easily digestible for most audiences. Self-indulgent quotables and long speeches are far and few. Rather, the film relies on the pace at which details of the case are unraveled and the rapidly growing significance of it all to keep us wholly invested and equally anxious until the last few seconds. The impact of the story is further bolstered by the performances of an all-star ensemble.
Furthermore, the film paints an interesting spectral view of those involved in the case and its investigation. Stanley Tucci plays the part of a genuine people’s lawyer whereas Billy Crudup plays the more well-off lawyer with dubious intentions. The Spotlight team realizes the sheer importance of what they’re doing and is committed to writing the best story possible whereas their crosstown rivals over at the Herald only strive to be the first to break the story. Liev Schreiber is an outsider of the Jewish faith whereas almost everybody else is a lifelong Bostonian. And among those Bostonians are the lapsed Catholics and devout Catholics, those who want nothing more than to preserve the integrity of their community and those who see the bigger picture. You get the point. But as I mentioned before, it’s not an entirely black-and-white affair. Nobody from either side of these presumed dualities are absolved of their transgressions. Even the “good guys” screwed up and as easy as it would’ve been to omit that and present a hagiographic account of what happened, they don’t and it’s refreshing as hell.
What didn’t work?
The movie is over 2 hours long and runs on dialogue for pretty much all of that time. That may be a complete deal breaker to some, but really, it shouldn’t be. With all of the (necessary) set-up and exposition in the beginning, it might require some patience to get hooked, but it will be worth it. If anything, the movie might’ve benefited if it were a little longer.
The awards buzz is strong with this one and I can absolutely see why. The filmmakers handle the intriguing subject matter responsibly and masterfully, and the superb acting makes you feel like you’re right in the thick of their investigation. If 128 minutes of talking isn’t exactly your cup of tea, change your mind with this one.