The last in 2015’s little trilogy of “I love this movie, but the discussion topics are making me mad” movies, “Spotlight” took the top spot of the podium at least in the awards front, snatching the Best Picture at the Oscars. Then again, the Oscars has had times before where it chose the wrong title, so how does this choice fare?
The topic isn’t one localised to America this time, even though it focuses on the origin of where the story broke – Boston. During the turn of the 2000’s, the Boston Globe hired a new editor, who tasks the paper to investigate whether sexual abuse claims against priests from the city are valid, and to what extent was the abuse known of. Just on the ground level, or did the top-tier know too? This grim story is given to the paper’s Spotlight team – a select number of journalists that can take months or even years to investigate and publish their articles. But their process gets results, and the new editor gives them the opportunity to show their potential. But, what begins as a single case of allegations quickly erupts into a city-wide scandal that hasn’t been brought to light properly for the past 40 years. The Spotlight team face an uphill struggle, but one they must weather in the name of journalism.
Today we all know about the sexual assault scandals that rocked the Catholic Church worldwide, so many countries were caught up in it. But it is amazing to think that just over a decade ago, the story hadn’t been blown wide open yet. This movie does the very clever decision of picking a story that uses a specific team that investigated it, at a time when the Church uses its power to stamp out any threat of people going public. And even though the details are well accounted now, it still is shocking to hear the specifics of what was going on. The lies, the denials, and the lives that were permanently damaged by those priests. This is the third time I have had to watch a major scandal unfold on a home release lately, and this still managed to touch a nerve for me. I am sure everyone that sees it will react in a similar matter.
But, there is plenty here to amplify the traits of the movie to make it an amazing view. And wow, did they do some fantastic casting to sell this story to audiences. Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Liev Schrieber, Rachel McAdama, and John Slattery knock it out of the frigging park. They don’t try to sell the characters by being wild of noisy, they become their characters so thoroughly and completely that it took me back for a moment near the start. Only the youngest Spotlight journalist has a clear-cut mannerism of being hyper-active and incredibly dedicated to his work. But this gives full reason and weight to the sequence where he just loses it, and you totally understand why he does so. All the characters are played in a genuine, believable manner, one of a professional journalist that maybe is a little overly-clean, but not to an extent where you start disbelieving their actions.
In fact, so many aspects of the film are very subdued and professional, never relying on over-reacting or emotions running past the point of believability. The camera set up and design is superb, even by the high standards of other Oscar nominees from this year, this one is a yard stick in terms of quality and application. The framing, editing, movements, angles, and level of authenticity to the times, are all marvellous. And there are no fancy tricks going on, this is just some good-ass, old school filmwork that everyone could look at and appreciate. The same goes for the score too – very simple and utilised rarely, but those piano notes have some really nice weight to them.
As I led to earlier, this was a great story to pick up for a drama. All the gears and movements are set within one team all working towards a single goal, and their interactions with people outside the loop in order to gain information that can move things forward. You’re not being swung from one location to another, and like a friend of mine said, there are no love stories or other side-plots to distract you from the primary storyline. It goes a long way towards keeping everything that happens tight, and direct.
It is interesting as well to observe that there’s no real “threat” that is causing issues like we saw with the NFL in “Concussion”. Instead, there are the barriers and legal problems facing the Spotlight team. There are masses of information not only to go through, but seek down too. And a lot of this was in a time when a Spreadsheet was fairly advanced in terms of an office tool. I found the process of tracking down old newsprints, sourcing news stories, printing them, and delivering the copies, kind of fascinating. The way big news companies worked back then may have been against how the technical revolution was heading, but it still got the job done. Just an interesting observation of mine.
And as far as the overall arc, it ends at just the right point, without sprinting past the finish line and wasting energy. As you’d expect it fully ends on the pre-credits text, but in this case, it stamps home how big this scandal was. Holy shit, seeing names up there from Ireland made me shudder in and incredibly uncomfortable way. The settign is American, but the implications? Worldwide.
But to go back to the topic at hand and begin my conclusions, this is a masterly-crafted drama piece on something which still holds thought on the minds of many. How something this horrific, and this big, could have been hushed up for so many years. And yet we still hear of historical abuse claims right up to this day. So even though the Catholic Church got caught, there’s still other companies and organisations out there that are holding back info. And that is how this movie left me feeling by the end, shocked at how the events unfolded, and angry that it could still happen.
But only a great movie could hold up a topic this heavy, and “Spotlight” does it with incredible ease. There are almost no faults to point at here, everything was performed to exacting standard and with a really dedicated performance by the whole cast. I can see this being referred to time and time again in the future as one of the ebst examples to take on a film dealing with anger-inducing events which did indeed happen. And yes, totally worthy of receiving that Oscar for “Best Picture”. So at least for this year, the Academy got it right, and with a movie that needed to be given the err, spotlight, to bring the discussion back to the forefront.
Thanks for reading!