SPOTLIGHT FILM REVIEW: A Strong Ensemble Guides Us Through One Of The World’s Biggest Scandals

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Tweetable Takeaway: Tom McCarthy delivers one of the best films of the awards season with “Spotlight”.


In a time where every day the internet asks its users to get involved and people come forward with stories of harassment, discrimination, and abuse, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the noise or defensive believing that many of the voices are simply looking for their fifteen minutes. What Tom McCarthy’s SPOTLIGHT does is remind those who may deny events or defend the guilty that all of the pieces are right in front of us, we simply have to put them together.

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The film follows the writers of “Spotlight” at The Boston Globe as they investigate the priest scandals and release their findings in early 2002 that rocked not only the entire Catholic Archdiocese of Boston but the world. There are four central people who make up the team and they are played by Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, and Brian D’Arcy James, and when they find all the major details of a story they take it to their editor played by John Slattery and the new editor-in-chief played by Liev Schreiber.

I was mostly interested in watching this movie because of a moment in the trailer where Michael Keaton challenges Billy Crudup, a seemingly dirty lawyer who is making his off of the backs of poor Bostoners in helping cover up the scandals for the church. Watching the movie opens your eyes further. Yes, the church was involved and we all know the story, though we may not know the extent to which they had their hand in the legal proceedings (such as removing public records from guarded government buildings). Yes, there were lawyers who took advantage of the situation, finding a niche market as they caused more harm than help to the victims. What never occurred to me is how much we all sit back, aware of injustices but don’t consider them that harmful because of the amount of noise from all around us. These were trained reporters who had all the information years prior and never took notice of how big the problem really was.

The cast handles the emotional discovery of all this information impeccably, with each having a different attachment to the church even though none of them are practicing Catholics. Much like those who would read the story and its findings, these reporters do not want any of it to be true and are all scared to some extent of how it will effect their beloved city.

The script and direction were incredible as well. Perfectly structured, the transitions from sequence to sequence in the story were seamless, immersing the viewer to the point where it was only after going back and analyzing what I had just watched that I discovered the effortless structure. As for the dialogue, after several seasons of Aaron Sorkin’s Newsroom with its melodic banter, it was great to hear the speed of these actors with a natural intensity and style honed to each character.

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The number of injustices all around us in this world can seem overwhelming and insurmountable if you spend just a few minutes on Twitter, but that’s not a reason to take notice of them. Director Tom McCarthy’s powerful movie, with a seemingly unattached but growingly emotional cast reminds us to pay attention to the world around us and listen, not leaning on the apathetic nature of the way we receive today’s “soundbite-style” news.

This movie may not be a favorite for some, as the characters were hard to remain detached from their connection to the story for the first half of the film which seemingly stagnant, however the film is always moving forward. With strong structure, a fantastic ensemble, and an important story all helmed steadily under Tom McCarthy, Spotlight is easily one of the best films of this awards season which is why it is receiving a score of 5 out of 5. 

Score:  5 out of 5

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Emily J | Staff Writer
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