A Life-Altering Film
Hey guys! I'm so excited to have another review co-written by my buddy Peter Kosanovich. This time we're taking a look at Spotlight, and I'll warn you....it's very close to my personal favorite film of the year. Everything about this film is perfect, from an incredibly engaging story told in a very respectful manner to some incredibly subdued and fantastic acting performances from the entire ensemble cast. The set is wonderfully authentic, and there's even some phenomenal performances from the numerous extras in this film, which was actually something this film really needed to get right. Fortunately it did.
When making Spotlight, the directors, actors, writers, and everyone involved had to take care when preparing their story. They needed to follow suit from the actual Spotlight team in preparing an unbiased, investigative story – to not glorify the writers or demonize the church. As a reviewer you have to take the same precautions, it’s best to take a step back and figure out how to approach such a delicate subject. Yes, we are giving out opinion to an extent, but we don’t want to come at a movie so sided that we can’t see everything clearly. Telling the story of the Catholic Church sexual abuse scandal from the early 2000s, Spotlight follows the team of investigative journalists from the Boston Globe as they uncover this scandal and its significance to the Boston community, a predominantly Catholic area. Beginning with a flashback scene to the 1970s we are introduced to a sexual abuse case that is promptly swept under the rug. The priest being held at the police station is released into the custody of a Cardinal, who has promised the family that they priest will be removed from circulation. Jumping forward to the early 2000s, Spotlight immediately begins following the investigative team, known as Spotlight, as they are given this story to work on by The Boston Globes’ new head editor. At the time, the story was a simple follow-up to a previous story involving a single priest, but it quickly snowballs into a much larger investigation involving close to 90 priests. What makes Spotlight so compelling is its accuracy to actual events. Yes, the directing, and acting, and writing are all phenomenal in their own right, but the film is as accurate as possible within a two hour time frame.
This was actually something I was very impressed by. Not only did this film maintain accuracy in storytelling, but it maintained accuracy in its set design. The review from the Boston Globe itself (which you can read here) actually said that not only was most of the movie filmed in the actual Boston Globe, but most of the extras in the film are current Boston Globe employees. But we really need to commend Tom McCarthy. His directing here is absolutely subliminal. There's so much care taken in every step of telling this story, and it shows. This crew knew they were working on something important, and the amount of respect shown for the source material bleeds through every aspect of the film.
Beyond the accuracy of Spotlight, as mentioned, the film also utilizes incredible pacing of the story from director Tom McCarthy. He breaks down the events beat by beat to keep the story moving with a captivating pace throughout the 128 minute film. This also leads the performances from all of the leads to be quite dynamic and genuine in their delivery; Michael Keaton is highly believable as the editor of the project, knowing what leads to follow where; Mark Ruffalo is clearly the man-on-a-mission trying his hardest to get to the bottom of this, putting his soul into the project; Liev Schreiber perfectly portrays the outsider, very uncomfortable in the larger public settings, while also being the calculated voice behind the project. Perhaps the most underrated performance in the entire film though goes to Rachel McAdams. She is caught in a situation where her beliefs and put at odds with, and change because of the investigation, but more importantly her relationships with her family, in particular her grandmother are tested. The single most powerful moment in the entire film goes to McAdams and her grandmother when their story is finally published, and we are made to watch this elderly woman read through an article that addresses a tragic scandal within the Catholic church – her entire world is shattered in that one moment, and we can see it.
Agreed. Rachel McAdams is the standout performer here, but overall I was impressed by how grounded all the performances were. I mean Michael Keaton is a very recognizable actor, and yet by halfway through the film I completely forgot I was watching Michael Keaton, and this goes for everyone in this crew. However, for me, there was no single moment that stood out. Instead, this entire film stood out. This film is thought provoking. I think the best way to describe it is that it's a life-altering film. It actually made me rather upset. Why? Because it could have happened to me. For those who don't know I was raised Catholic in Cincinnati, Ohio, a city confirmed to be involved in the priest sex scandals. The only reason it didn't happen to me was because of luck. There were over 1,000 confirmed victims in the Boston area alone between 1975 and 2002. The Cardinal in charge of the Boston Archdioceses knew this was going on that entire time, and did absolutely nothing. Actually, he actively tried to cover it up. And you know what he got? For letting this happen? A promotion to Rome in 2003. I really thought The Big Short was going to be 2015's most important film since it's the first film to truly and accurately explain 2007's financial crisis, but after watching Spotlight I realized that it's not. Not even close. Now does most important equate to best for me? I don't know. I still need to decide that one, but there's no way I can say this is anything less than a perfect film, and easily within my top 3 best films of 2015. I strongly recommend it to everyone, especially Catholics because it's important to see the entire Catholic Church. Not just your rock. I mean obviously this scandal didn't touch every single priest preaching Catholicism, but it impacted faaar more than I thought it did, to the point that it was a statistical occurrence, and that fact is pretty thought-provoking in and of itself, and to be educated by this film I believe is extremely important. This film is a rare film that's more about the story itself than it is the characters involved. It is certainly one of the best of 2015, and not to be missed.
In my final thoughts I thought this movie was brilliant. Normally a movie ends, and unless I’m looking for something specific in the credits I will get up and leave, but for Spotlight I just sat and waited. I listened to the music and just sat on the impact of this film, and by association the original story as it was released in 2002. A powerful movie, and an incredibly well done movie.
Joseph's Critique: The most important film of the year, Spotlight tells a powerful, important, and thought-provoking story in the perfect way.
Peter's Critique: Spotlight is without a doubt a brilliant film. Powerful, with a message, but never feels preachy (pun intended) at any point. A flawlessly executed film, and my pick for Bets Picture at this year's Oscars.
Joseph's Recommendation: This film earns my biggest must-see recommendation of 2015. If someone said, "I've never seen a film from 2015, show me one." This is the one I'd go for.
Peter's Recommendation: I would highly recommend this movie to just about anyone. No, it is not the big blockbuster that many of us want to see all the time, but it has a compelling story that moves very easily on the screen. You are never in a lull for action or movement in the story. It also highlights, and brings renewed prominence to a potentially dying field, in that of investigative journalism, a powerful tool in the world.
The Verdict: 10/10 Perfect (both of us agree on this)
Oscar Talk: This movie has been racking up nominations galore. Among these nominations have been acting accolades, writing accolades, directing accolades, everything. With the Oscar noms already out, not without controversy at that, I would definitely say that this movie is a hot contender for Best Picture of the year, and so far my favorite for that category.