by Adam Kaplan –
Spotlight, the Academy Award winner for Best Picture and the best film of 2015, recently became available to stream on Netflix. Very rarely does the best movie in a particular year actually win the Oscar for Best Picture, yet at the 88th Annual Academy Awards, that surprisingly became the case.
Spotlight is directed by Tom McCarthy (The Station Agent, Win Win) and stars Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Brian d’Arcy James, and Michael Keaton as a group of investigative journalists for the Boston Globe in the early 2000’s looking into the Catholic Church and the claims of child molestation against it. As we know now, the Boston Globe and their incredible team of investigative journalists were responsible for revealing the rampant corruption and malfeasance in the Catholic Church, so the ending of Spotlight isn’t all that illuminating, but the journey to get there, thanks to McCarthy and his superb cast, was extraordinary.
Ruffalo, McAdams, and d’Arcy James play Globe reporters Mike Rezendes, Sasha Pfeiffer, and Matt Carroll, respectively. They report to Keaton’s Walter “Robby” Robinson. Early in the film, Robby meets with the new head of the Globe Marty Baron, played by Liev Schreiber. Schreiber plays Marty as cold and calculated, yet with a lot of heart. That’s basically what Spotlight is. It’s very methodical and intentional, yet bursting at the seams with emotion. Marty tells Robby to have his team dig as deep as they can into the claims made against the Catholic Church. In the film, we learn that horrific accusations made against Catholic priests have been made for years and decades, yet have fallen on deaf ears. Marty, a non-Boston native, wants to change that, which sets the story into motion.
Rezendes, Pfeiffer, and Carroll then begin to start digging and meeting with people. They begin to pull the thread, and by the end of the film, the entire garment unravels. Along the way, the reporters meet a victim’s advocate attorney named Mitchell Garabedian played by the incomparable Stanley Tucci, and a slick defense attorney named Eric Macleish played by Billy Crudup along with a handful of former priests and victims. Each interview sends these Globe reporters down a fascinating and terrible rabbit hole that you just can’t help but be engrossed by. Each interviewee could have earned a Best Supporting Actor nomination for their work, because each one of these scenes is memorable in their own way. Crudup and especially Tucci are amazing as they always are, and is character acting at its finest.
However, the real star of Spotlight is its director Tom McCarthy. Throughout Oscar season in 2015, not much was made about McCarthy despite how excellent the film is. Spotlight isn’t as flashy as something like Alejandro Inarritu’s The Revenant or George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road, but it’s just as impressive. Not only did McCarthy manage to make investigative journalism exciting and captivating, but he was able to get out of the film’s way. Spotlight dives right into the action and never lets up. It flows on a steady consistent pace that moves briskly from scene to scene. Spotlight is able to do that thanks to the astonishing acting and perfect script penned by McCarthy and Josh Singer. Spotlight easily could have been over-directed, overacted, and over-the-top, but it thankfully was none of those things. McCarthy has made his directorial career out of stepping out of the way and letting his great film just be great, and Spotlight is no exception to that.
Spotlight was worth the price of admission to see in theaters, and it’s absolutely worth the price of admission to sit on your couch and see the film for free. It’s an excellent film that should be watched by all.