Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight tells the true story of the Boston Globe’s uncovering of the massive child molestation scandal covered up by the Catholic Church.
Above all this film is about the performances of the actors chosen and they completely land in every way. Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, Stanley Tucci and Bryan D’Arcy James completely nail their roles and deliver among the best performances of their careers.
Mark Ruffalo was a particular standout for me but that might be because I’ve always had a lot of time for him. He completely inhabits his character Mark Rezendes at every turn to the point that I almost forgot I was watching Mark Ruffalo. It’s a lot of gushing but his performance was genuinely that good. His interactions with Stanley Tucci’s Mitchell Garabedian were particular highlights with the professional back and forth between the two of them as Rezendes desperately tried to get some information out of him and Garabedian doing everything he could to be unreadable in any way.
Rachel McAdams’ Sacha Pfeiffer specialises in being the heart of the team. As corny as that sounds that is broadly her function and it works perfectly. She is always good at gaining the trust of people and gets them to open up about deeply personal issues that leave profound psychological scars. McAdams always comes across as someone who can be trusted as she constantly radiated a natural empathy.
Michael Keaton as the leader of the group comes across as a personable authority figure who believes in the talent and worth ethic of his team but also has to bear in mind the business side of journalism and ensure that they are on task. Keaton delivers his performance as someone who tries to be their friend but keeps an appropriate distance to keep their respect. It’s very subtle but comes across really well.
I could go on about the acting for another 1000 words and still not articulate why it’s so great. There isn’t a single weak link in the performances and everyone involved deserves recognition for that. Rarely have I seen such a talented cast firing on all cylinders in quite this way.
The story is really well told throughout with the characters carrying the narrative. Everything is based on them finding information and doing something with that information so the structure of the film is built by their actions. This definitely works as a storytelling method as it always means that nothing happens just for the sake of moving the plot forward. Instead the plot moves forward because the characters make it do so and it’s definitely the right way to do that.
In some ways I found this film to be comparable to The Big Short while also managing to be the opposite. The Big Short does a lot to sensationalise the events as a stylistic choice where this film takes us through the slow and deliberate process of uncovering the truth. On the surface that might sound like a really boring idea but since the characters are so engaging then it all works.
The film also manages to land some really powerful emotional beats. Hearing the accounts of those who were abused as children and finding out how deep an effect it caused across their life is really heartbreaking. Constantly humanising the story to prevent it from being bogged down in the scope of the issue is a very smart idea as it keeps the mind of the viewer on those affected. I defy anyone not to feel horrified by some of the accounts that are cleverly dissected by the Spotlight team at later points. It really is powerful and moving stuff. The reactions of the characters hearing them are really viscerally performed as well.
I did find that the pacing was a bit off in some places and the film runs perhaps a little too long but it’s a very minor criticism in what otherwise stands out as being an excellent experience. I really appreciated the lack of sensationalism as it allowed the facts and the performances to speak for themselves.
A moving and powerful film that is carried by the excellent performances of the actors involved without sensationalising the issue.
Above all this film is about the performances of the actors chosen and they completely land in every way. Each actor nails their roles and deliver among the best performances of their careers.
Mark Ruffalo was a particular standout but that might be my personal bias as I am a fan of his. He completely inhabits his character. His interactions with Stanley Tucci were particular highlights.
The rest of the cast are no slouch either with special attention paid to Rachel McAdams and her ability to radiate natural empathy as well as Michael Keaton’s personable boss who keeps a professional distance. Everyone involved in this film really deserves recognition. The story is built by the characters and it’s definitely the smart way to do it.
In some ways this film is comparable to The Big Short but differs massively in execution. This film does nothing to sensationalise the events and takes us through the slow and deliberate process of uncovering the truth.
The film manages to land some really powerful emotional beats. Hearing the accounts of those abused is heartbreaking and constantly humanises the story to prevent it from being bogged down in the massive scope.
At some points I felt like the pacing was slightly off and the whole film runs a little too long but it’s a very minor criticism. I really appreciated the lack of sensationalism as it allowed the facts and performances to speak for themselves.