I’m not always into watching the Oscar winner for Best Picture, since usually I find them all too similar and depressing. However I had to make an exception for Spotlight since I heard it was similar to All the President’s Men, a book which I enjoyed reading and recommend and that it actually has a happy ending. After a few weeks of waiting I finally saw the film and it’s eye-opening and completely deserving of its Oscar victory.
Spotlight follows the Boston Globe Spotlight team from 2001-2002 while trying to uncover a massive abuse cover-up within the Catholic Church. The team is led by Walter “Robbie” Robinson (Michael Keaton), and includes Mike Rezendez (Mark Ruffalo), Sacha Pheiffer (Rachel McAdams), and Matt Carroll (Brian d’Arcy James). After introducing us to the four-man team, director Tom McCarthy starts piling on the dialogue, as the film takes it’s ‘drama’ claim seriously. The team struggles to find relevant information and goes through numerous sources and loopholes just to find solid proof.
The film weaves and bends, taking place over an almost thirty-year period, setting up numerous sub-plots (and answering all by the end credits), providing several eye-opening moments and moments where I cringed, not because the film was bad, but because what I was hearing people describe was so awful. You know a movie’s good when mere spoken words make you avert your eyes, and not the footage itself.
Casting is a slam dunk on all levels, with Liev Schreiber and John Slattery playing the team’s editorial bosses, Mark Baron and Ben Bradlee, Jr., respectively. Every member of the cast, including a stunning serious performance by Stanley Tucchi, sounds and acts authentic. Not being from or ever been to Boston I couldn’t judge the authenticity of the accents, but according to the actual reporters they are spot on.
In acting terms, Mark Ruffalo should’ve taken home an Oscar for his work instead of that ‘other’ Mark who did. That’s about as simple as I can put it. Tucchi deserved a couple award nominations as well, and Keaton and the others give just as good performances. It’s clear from the first time he appears on screen, however, that this is Ruffalo’s movie.
The film’s production design is top-notch, with early 2000’s Boston replicated in extraordinary detail, from huge computer monitors to AOL ads to flip phones. Costuming is perfect for the cold Boston weather, sections of the Globe offices are restored perfectly- basically everything in the movie looks and sounds like you were transported to Boston in 2001.
Spotlight can be best described as eye-openingly phenomenal. I knew nothing about the subject matter yet by the end I felt like an expert. True, this isn’t a movie for everybody, but it dosen’t try or want to be. And yes, it’s definitely up there with All the President’s Men as the best newspaper-based film ever made. Go see it.
Director: Tom McCarthy
Stars: Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams
Studio: Participant Media