It wouldn’t be Oscar season without a drama based on controversial, significant true events. With this, Spotlight more than fits the bill. Set in 2001, the film shows the story of The Boston Globe editor Marty Baron and a team of journalists who figured out, and sought to prove, how much child molestation occurred in the local and national US Catholic Archdiocese.
Films like this are ordinarily irksome; they are inevitably predictable with largely subdued performances, a basic screenplay and terrible character arcs. Ultimately, they tend to feel hollow, as if they’re made solely for awards recognition. Contrary to this, Spotlight cares about the exposure of the subject matter, feeling far from empty.
In failing to have a unique style, Spotlight goes for an approach similar to Zodiac (2007), avoiding excitement. It continually tries to evoke a personal, emotional response from the audience, yet it is easy to frequently feel detached. Though there’s an interest in the reality of what happened, it’s never truly captivating in comparison to such films as Zodiac and The Insider (1999), and it certainly shouldn’t have the longevity of such iconic journalism films as The Killing Fields (1984) and Salvador (1986).
Fortunately, Spotlight does have quite an impressive ensemble in the form of Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Stanley Tucci, Liev Schreiber and John Slattery. As is to be expected, the stars here are good, yet there’s hardly enough meat for their characters. Keaton enacts a spectacular arc, and Ruffalo gives the best performance, but Ruffalo and McAdams’ Academy Award nominations don’t deserve to win when Ex Machina and Beasts of No Nation were snubbed. In addition to some quality performances from the ensemble, the side actors portraying the victims of molestation are terrific, delivering greatly emotional performances and becoming a highlight of the film.
From Best Picture to Best Original Screenplay, Spotlight has earned its fair share of Academy Award nominations. This success is quite incredible considering director Tom McCarthy’s poor 2015, experiencing critical and financial failure with The Cobbler. For Spotlight itself, the film represents journalism somewhat realistically; it shows how processes can take a long time, and a fear of other publications ruining cases. However, though having written words of praise here, the film struggles to captivate and doesn’t stand out from other terrific films based on true events.
What did you think of Spotlight?
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– Luke Compton