2015

Film #532: Spotlight (2015)

So we’ve reached the final member of this year’s eight Best Picture nominees and it’s a film that I’ve been looking forward to seeing for a long time; Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight. There are a few reasons I’ve been anticipating the film namely the fact that I’ve long been a fan of McCarthy’s work and also that the film’s story is one that I wasn’t aware of ahead of time.

The story in question deals with the Boston Globe’s Spotlight department who over a year uncovered more than seventy cases where Catholic priests abused young children. The 2001 investigation is catapulted by a small piece in The Globe about a paedophile priest whose abuse of young children was supposedly covered up by the Archbishop of Boston Cardinal Law. The Globe’s new editor Marty Baron gives the story to the Spotlight Team; a small group of journalists who publish big exposes but take up to a year to research their stories. From there on in we follow the reporters as they attempt to track down victims and try to reveal just how high up the cover-up went. A film about journalists trying to expose a big cover up will obviously draw comparisons to All the President’s Men and there is definitely a nod to Alan J Paluka’s classic throughout Spotlight. Both contain a shocking true story that is both compelling and outrageous but in terms of Spotlight isn’t one that I feel was particularly well-publicised. Thankfully I think that McCarthy and co-writer Josh Singer told the story in a way in which the audience would be able to sympathise with the victims and be appalled with just how far the cover-up went.

I do feel it must be hard to make a film that contains a lot of people talking in rooms feel compelling but I felt that McCarthy and Singer managed this during Spotlight. In fact, out of the eight Best Picture nominees I’ve watched, nothing has really captivated me as much as Spotlight did. I was on the edge of my seat as many of the revelations came out and from the opening set piece onwards the script portrayed this cover-up as something that was relatively normal in the area. Spotlight also is keen to paint the central team of journalists as normal people rather than crusaders and in my opinion that’s one of the film’s major strengths. Many prioritise their work over their family life and it’s interesting to see how their investigation of the story impacts on their lives. For example Rachel McAdams’ Sasha stops going to church with her grandmother once she starts writing the story whilst Brian D’arcy James’ Matt is shocked when he discovers a centre for priests who’ve abused children exists just a block away from the house. Possibly the biggest revelation comes late on in the film when Michael Keaton’s Spotlight editor Walter ‘Robby’ Robinson realises that he wrote a story in the paper’s Metro section about the scandal almost twenty years earlier. This realisation demonstrates that even the newspapers initially weren’t interested in the story and it was something that even the press wanted to sweep under the rug.

Whilst it may not have affected me in the same way as Room did I think that Spotlight slighted edges out Lenny Abrahamson’s film as my favourite of this year’s Best Picture nominees. It was a film that was captivating from the word go with its scripting, directing and performances being excellent throughout. Special praise must go to Keaton whose performance as Robby was the film’s best and I believe that he was the film’s most interesting character. Although it’s probably a controversial opinion I think his performance here was better than his showier Oscar-nominated turn in last year’s Birdman however this year Keaton hasn’t been nominated in any category. Instead both Rachel McAdams and Mark Ruffalo have been honoured for their roles in the film with the former’s nod being the most puzzling as I didn’t think she really made that much of an impact throughout the movie. I do think Spotlight’s best shot at Oscar success will come in the Best Original Screenplay category although it does face stiff competition from the likes of Ex-Machina and Inside Out. It’s a shame that Spotlight isn’t on the way to winning more awards but just the fact that it’s been nominated for as many Oscars as it has means that more people will see the film. In my eyes this is only a good thing as McCarthy and his team have made a film that is both entertaining and shocking and tells a story that needs to be told to as many people as possible.

So that’s your lot for now but I’m hoping to restart my look back at films that were nominated for Best Director but not Best Picture very soon.

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