Spotlight is a 2015 drama film directed by Tom McCarthy and starring Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton and Rachel McAdams. It was nominated for Best Picture and it’s a typically good, but far from a great film.
It follows the Boston Globe’s Spotlight investigative team as they investigate the systemic child sex abuse by Catholic priests. It is an important real-life story well told. The second half is excellent as it wonderfully showcases the different sides to this story and the reactions of various people and how it affected the religious community. And some of the scenes had a great emotional resonance to them with a couple of touching and poignant moments with the journalists struggling to cope with the crime.
However, whereas the second half is really good, the first is unfortunately not. The first half of Spotlight is always too cold and too emotionless which bothered me as this scandal is so big and awful that it should have affected them way earlier. But they seemed like cold businessmen. And the first half seemed one-sided and simplistic with some boring scenes, but thankfully that all changed in the second half where, despite some disappointing scenes, it’s mostly great and sophisticated.
The character development is awfully weak for a drama film. Rezendes has his moments as well as Sasha, but Robby is problematic and the rest are forgettable. The characters here do not seem like real people as we never really meet them or learn anything about them. The film just shows their business side and never shows their personality and they all blend into a team instead of being fully developed individuals.
But the acting is fantastic with Michael Keaton being pretty good and Rachel McAdams also has some great scenes. But it is Mark Ruffalo who gives the finest performance here mostly because he plays a different character than usual. This one is more rough and physical with some weird twitching. It was weird watching him as this was so different than his usual roles, but he plays it magnificently and is the best actor here.
Spotlight is really well made and technically professional. The directing from Tom McCarthy is so good, the acting is great and the editing is exceptionally good at times. Another great thing about it is the score which is very good and tonally fitting to the story. The dialogue is for the most part excellent, but some parts were either too difficult to understand or too boring to watch. But thankfully the picture is mostly engaging with the second half being particularly entertaining and dramatic. The emotional investment is lacking at first, but picks up later on with some scenes being quite powerful. But the script isn’t that great as this is a typical Oscar bait movie in that the story is relevant and important, but sometimes either too boring or too uncomfortable to watch due to that disgusting subject matter. But it is still important to see as it really happened.
Another thing that bothered me has to be its tendency to portray these journalists as flawless people and even when you learn that they aren’t like that at all, the film still somehow sweeps that fact under the rug which was incredibly disappointing to me. Also, some scenes were a bit too difficult to believe. However, Spotlight benefits from a strong second half that fixed many of those mistakes and I wished that the whole movie was like that and that the characterization was better. Some lines near the end are great and some observations are very sophisticated and truthful.
It was nominated for six Oscars including Best Picture. It is a clichéd Oscar film in my opinion which is why it was nominated. Mark Ruffalo deserved the nomination, but Rachel McAdams not so much. She was really good, but not that great or particularly memorable. The directing nomination is deserved as well as editing, but screenplay is of course not deservedly nominated. It is a good film for sure, but far from great.