Saturday, January 16, 2016

Spotlight Review

Typically when I use the phrase "by the numbers" it is meant as a negative. For anyone who has been paying attention to my taste in cinema, I am easily wowed by style. The reason I believe Mad Max: Fury Road should dominate the Oscars this year is not that I was blown away by the story, it's that every tiny detail of the movie paints an epic, unforgettable picture for me. The photography, the frenetic brilliance of the editing, the costumes, the performance of Charlize Theron, the set pieces and the inventive genius of so many moments. All of it adds up to perfection.

Spotlight is, essentially, by the numbers. Thank god, because you know what seems to be nearly impossible for films revolving around journalism? Getting those numbers right.

With a work like Spotlight, it isn't about style of flash and it shouldn't be. The key is making sure the numbers add up, conveying an authenticity and professionalism that makes us believe in the characters and their goals. When we don't believe in those trying to break a story, why would we ever give a shit about the end result?

Directed by Tom McCarthy whom had one of the strangest years in 2015 when you consider he was also responsible for one of the absolute worst movies as well, The Cobbler (we will consider this an aberration from his usual quality work), Spotlight tells the true story of a specific team of journalists working for the Boston Globe in 2001. A new editor is hired named Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber) and he asks the "Spotlight" team to focus their attention on a single pedophile priest named John Geoghan and whether or not the local Archbisop knew of his terrible actions yet did nothing to try and stop it. The deeper they look into it, the more they discover how horrifically widespread the actual problem had spread, far beyond a single priest. So many victims and the church simply tried to sweep it under the rug.

This is a special film that stands out because ironically it doesn't ever try to stand out. Everything about Spotlight just comes so naturally, with the wonderful ensemble cast always precisely on point working with a screenplay that not only knows journalism but also knows how to tell a true story of a very sensitive subject. It doesn't pull any punches nor does it throw too many. It is a film that demonstrates power through grace and honesty. 

No, Spotlight isn't my personal choice for Best Picture this year, but I also won't complain for a moment if it wins. It deserves recognition for knowing exactly when to be by the numbers. Tom McCarthy tells this unfortunately real story with intelligence and maturity, and it is an important film that deserves to be seen.



  1. I was surprised at how much I liked Spotlight, heck I even went to the theaters to watch it again! It's a very subtle horror film that you can't believe came true. They knew exactly what details to put in where, and when to reveal key information. The cast had such great chemistry that I was absorbed into the film almost immediately. But I think the truly horrifying parts of this film were those human elements when Keaton realizes that he had the story before and just wrote it off, when that guy found out there were dirty priests living a block from him and he put up the sign to tell his kids to avoid them, and especially when they have those scenes where they desperately want to tell people what's going on, but they knew that their information was solid and if anything would hurt their case against the church. And then, at the end when the film lists all the place around the world where these priests have been doing their thing was definitely eye opening to say the least.

    1. Yeah, you pretty much summed it up perfectly Cody. Well said.

      At the end of such an eye opening, terrific film, that list of places conclusion you referred to? Goodness. Bone chilling and hard to accept as truth.