Movie Review: Spotlight
A review of the film and winner of Best Picture Spotlight.
Guest Review By: Jen Todderud
Directed by: Tom McCarthy
Written by: Josh Singer, Tom McCarthy
Starring: Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, Stanley Tucci
Jen’s Rating: 9/10
There’s something special about a story you want to follow when you already know the ending. Spotlight is a docudrama that portrays The Boston Globe’s “spotlight” department, under the direction of a new editor, uncovering the deep-rooted practice and concealment of child abuse. What Spotlight gets right is the depth and dimensions of the story, with an appropriate focus on the facts and how the investigative team overcame obstacles to make these facts public.
DUN DUN. How was my attempt at the sound effect from Law & Order? Well, not great, but that’s basically what the Spotlight team at The Boston Globe does. They’re a special team of investigative journalists always looking for the next story. When they hear from a victim of a local priest, they’re intrigued, but they don’t move on it right way. However, they’re under direction of new, out-of-town editor Marty Baron, (Liev Schreiber) and tensions are high—the desperation to remain relevant and keep their jobs in the struggling print news industry is apparent. When Baron encourages the story, the spotlight team hits the ground running. The three reporters, Ruffalo, McAdams, and Brian D’Arcy James, and editor Keaton, are methodical, honest, and compassionate. Through their research, interviews, and investigation the story unfolds, and it’s much bigger than anyone had guessed.
While the acting was satisfying, the characters were only a minor part of the story. There was little explanation or backstory given; in fact, several scenes of the reporters going about their personal lives felt almost out of place and left me questioning the relevance. While I certainly admire their tenacity and hard work, a little backstory or insight into their motivation would have added to the story.
However, the characters are fairly minor. The setting has much more impact on the investigation. Boston is full of prominent city leaders with a longstanding relationship with the Catholic Church. The characters must navigate the social standing of the community carefully while still being responsible. While the story itself is heartbreaking, the lengths to which those involved will go to in order to keep it quiet is downright rage-inducing. What was most effective was the investigative reporters’ reaction to the overall detachment of the rest of the community involved.
Spotlight is thrilling without being overly dramatic; it appropriately incites your emotions without taking advantage of them. Rather than sensationalistic and excessive, it is guarded and tense. This balance is the true work of art here.
If you enjoyed our review of Spotlight, check out our review of The Big Short: