Country: USA, Canada
Genre: Biography, Drama, History
Director: Tom McCarthy
Music: Howard Shore
Cinematography: Masanobu Takayanagi
Brian d’Arcy James
Michael Cyril Creighton
It is self-evident that SPOTLIGHT is a tailor-made Oscar-bait in every aspect, chronicles the sensational and gasping 2003 Pulitzer Prize-winning reportage by the Boston Globe’s Spotlight team, to disclose the rampant pedophiliac activity among the Roman Catholic church in Boston, a more shocking revelation is the fact that the entire church system has been unscrupulously cover these clergymen over decades, transfers them from parish to parish, and nips any opposition in the buds. The film is a strenuously faithful re-enactment of the story, directed and co-written by Tom McCarthy as the fifth time he sits in the director chair after a quite consistently outstanding resumé (THE STATION AGENT 2003, THE VISTOR 2007, WIN WIN 2011), on the ground that we could all pretend that the horrendous Adam Sandler vehicle THE COBBLER (2014) had never happened.
It is remarkable that McCarthy adopts a completely down-to-earth approach to present the narrative, encourages his sterling ensemble cast to strike a personal contact with their real-life characters and maximumly imitates their personalities to the silver screen, no melodramatic frills are allowed to manipulate audience’s reactions and simply lets the truth speaks for itself, and trust me, it is more than enough to make the point.
The whole investigation is conducted at the behest of the newly-appointed editor Marty Baron (Schreiber), whose Jewish origin could be appropriated as an easy target for his motivation, but his keen perception and pensive temperament determine that there is nothing to hold him back until they hold the whole corrupt system accountable for the sin. Schreiber’s resilient, withdrawn acting option works like magic.
The Spotlight team quartet is headed by Walter “Robby” Robinson (Keaton), with Michael Rezendes (Ruffalo), Sacha Pfeiffer (McAdams) and Matt Carroll (James), the investigative process is formulaic and daunting, indefatigably following the leads until one gets what he wants, or better, a new discovery. Meanwhile, McCarthy is extremely parsimonious to shed any light on his characters’ personal lives, as if he is making a point that journalists barely have anything else apart from their work, in hindsight, it is probably the safest way to avoid any lawsuit due to poetic licence, since most of the characters are still alive-and-kicking, no level-headed individual wants his or her own private hurdles being exposed for exploitation. On the other hand, McCarthy and co-writer Josh Singer is level-headed enough to not over-hype their activities either (since it is obvious that vested interest is always a collateral byproduct in the journalism against their altruistic motivation), thus, no individual heroism pops out stridently, and what we see, is a conscientious teamwork steadily dredges up scandalous evidences, and a understated minor twist reveals a lamentable remiss which could have changed the status quo decades earlier.
Ruffalo, bags his third Oscar-nomination among all the male cast, while McAdams is the lucky gal honored with a coattail nomination being the only woman in the ensemble. That is not to say that their performances are inferior, on the contrary, everyone is well-deserved for their ensemble win in the SAG, since their interpretation is closely complying with their respective character, and it happens to be, those journalists don’t possess the larger-than-life persona, the only time, a remotely over-the-top moment belongs to Ruffalo’s Michael, that’s why he is the pick by the academy, but Keaton, Schreiber, Tucci, even Crudup portray their roles in a more accomplished flair, plus, in my book, Ruffalo should be shifted to a borderline leading role (he has the most screen time and his contribution to the project is most minutely detailed), to save some space for his co-stars.
Unarguably, SPOTLIGHT is an important film exposé depicting a rotten underbelly of our society and what we should heed is its aftermath, since the Boston discovery is merely a tip of the iceberg, if one can lucidly imagine the whole ugly picture, it is not difficult to picture the colossal disillusion it inflicts on religious devotees who has a conscience, whom we deem as the pillar of a healthy society and perhaps, something positive could happen from within, for that reason alone, SPOTLIGHT should win BEST PICTURE this year, not that Oscar really matters these days, it is just a do-the-right-thing testimony for the sake of its own reputation.