If a certain cinematic topic was an oyster, it would be very unlikely to expect 2 pearls to come out of it. However, the topic of press and investigative journalism had the decency in 1976 to give us “All the President’s Men” and then 40 years later, it had the generosity to give us “Spotlight”.
Spotlight is the latest movie by director Tom McCarthy who also wrote it in collaboration with Josh Singer, and it stars a stellar cast that includes Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber and Stanley Tucci among others. The movie tells the real story of the Spotlight team from The Boston Globe who, in 2002, uncovered a scandalous story about the catholic church and how it conspired to protect several priests, who committed child molestation, from even losing their jobs.
Two major cinematic trends were not only embraced by “Spotlight”, but rather taken to another level. The movie is so focused on its main theme and topic, it doesn’t waste any time offering background stories for the characters and it doesn’t get distracted by side stories. This is a fresh trend that appears to have dominated the good films in 2015 in particular. In movies like The Revenant, The Big Short and Room for instance, no side stories are offered to support the build up of events or even to lend a helping hand to the cast. They’re all big boys, and girls for that matter .. Let them do their own work!
The second trend is the grouping of big names in the cast. The term “grouping” was carefully selected, because that’s exactly what it was in movies like “Everest”, where it didn’t really work, and “The Big Short”, where it was very successful. However in “Spotlight”, we really have a “team”, not a “group”, we get numerous interactions and we witness them working together firsthand. We get matches of twos, of 3’s, of everybody in the room in some scenes. That whole “room” concept is redefined in “Spotlight”, because with everybody acting cool, professional (as journalists, not actors), and restricted to what they would really say and do in a similar situation, it was easy to see myself in the room, looking around to see reactions that won’t really offer themselves to me, instead of being on the dull side of a screen. I think the term I’m looking for is “realistic”.
What “Spotlight” is discussing is a bone shivering revelation. A very upsetting and enraging crime discovery that didn’t really happen a long time ago. In 2002, George W. Bush was president of the united states and Brazil won their last world cup to date, that’s not the dark ages, and it’s difficult to watch a story proving that it was pretty much medieval around that time! Are our characters angry? Of course they are. Did it show? Of course not, they’re investigative journalists digging deeper into an already discovered story. It’s not like they’re seeing such a story for the first time, it’s daily business for them. That’s where “Spotlight” evolves itself into a pearl and gives us one of the most realistic true stories of the decade.
I’m not trying to say that “Spotlight” is flawless, it’s just so difficult to see the problems when we’re in the presence of artists molding a multi dimensional creation with such grace. Perhaps I would just like to highlight that when the time came for emotions to erupt, it was a bit superficial. I’m talking about the Ruffalo speech that was showcased every time he was nominated for an award and, while it was very well acted, it didn’t feel like the rest of the movie. A movie where everything is boiling under the surface, just the way Michael Keaton and Stanley Tucci portrayed it.
Having said that, I believe all the cast members were at the top of their game. Anybody could’ve been nominated for an Academy award and it would’ve been well merited. Nominations went to Ruffalo for supporting actor, and to McAdams who benefited a lot from the general modesty of female roles, and not performances, in 2015. I don’t believe her performance had the kind of impact that would earn her a nomination should there have been more competitive performance in the same category.
It restores my faith in the concept of redemption to see McCarthy bouncing from “The Cobbler” straight to “Spotlight”. I could always tell that Tom McCarthy is a fine filmmaker and while he delivered good jobs with projects of lower profile like “Win Win” or “The Visitor” or “The Station Agent”, but with “Spotlight”, and especially after “The Cobbler”, his work qualifies as genius.
“Spotlight” went on to claim the prize for best picture at the Oscars. A surprise but not a shock, in fact “Spotlight” is one of the most deserving movies to win the grand prize in the last 10 years.