dir. Tom McCarthy
written by: Tom McCarthy, Josh Singer
starring: Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, Brian D’Arcy James, Stanley Tucci
4 out of 4 stars
Earlier this year, Sicario left me clutching my armrest, constantly expecting the next move to be any character’s last in an original story involving tense action. My physical reaction to Spotlight, completely lacking explosions and gunshots, was more severe, nearly leaving me in tears by the end. Exploring the path the “Spotlight” team at the Boston Globe, a group focused on longterm investigative journalism, took to expose the Catholic Church covering up sexual abuse scandals for decades. This story is not new news; the newspaper published over 600 articles surrounding this scandal in 2002, and I doubt anyone has looked at priests the same since then. What director-writer Tom McCarthy developed with co-writer Josh Singer was simply phenomenal. Leaving out to all too common muddling of reporters’ personal lives, the movie develops solely around the increasing evidence of both priestly sexual abuse and the efforts of the Catholic Church to shift priests around in hopes the news won’t get out.
This cast is magnificent. Michael Keaton heads up the Spotlight team. Stripping his usual Keaton eccentricities, he produces a spot on performance as Walter Robinson, so much the real Walter was astounded. Similarly, Mark Ruffalo nailed Mike Rezendes, the heavily engaged, most heavily featured investigator. His performance engulfed the man, but came off as a bit exaggerated compared to the rest of the cast.
Subtlety and control inhabits the performances of Liev Schreiber, as Boston Globe’s new managing editor Marty Baron, and Rachel McAdams as Sacha Pfeiffer, a lapsed Catholic reporter still with deep familial connection to the church. Schreiber is quiet but forceful. McAdams possess more compassion and moderation than I’ve seen from her. Stripped of the romantic terrors in which she is so often cast, her reaction to woo-ing is insufferable. Have I mentioned The Notebook should have entirely been Gena Rowlands and James Garner’s exploration of marriage to an Alzheimer’s victim?
But I digress; if I start bitching about my distaste for Nicholas Sparks, I’ll never stop. On top of the main cast, we have supporting appearances by John Slattery and Stanley Tucci, doing their expectedly excellent work. Billy Crudup plays an unrecognizably skeezy lawyer in Eric Macleish who handled many of the settlements pre-Spotlight outting. Additionally a strong, unobtrusive score from Howard Shore and precise cinematography from Masanobu Takayanagi wrap this movie into an impeccable package.
Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer are owed much of the credit, along with editor Tom McArdle, for creating an engaging, incredibly cohesive procedural. The dialogue is sharp, and they maintain constant development and did not soften on elaboration. The audience feels the gravity of the situation and becomes shocked or angry along with the spotlight team. Bringing together the best of their actors and a keen eye for their craft, the awards have already been pouring in.
Despite the fourteen years of public knowledge, this story still runs deep. This millenias old institution holds so much weight, particularly in the largely Catholic city of Boston, and battling the group holding so much power where they shouldn’t seems an otherworldly tasks. Investigative journalism is shown at its best, making significant change in a corrupt decision, and McCarthy’s presentation is damn near flawless. The cast and production crew produced career best performances and offered no wasted time in the 128 minute movie. The ringing of telephones in the final scene still resonates in my ears; prepare for the nonfiction anxiety.