Film Review: Spotlight (2015)

There are times where the Oscars leave us pouting like a little five-year-old who couldn’t get that jumbo jaw-breaker from the candy store. The reason for this? Simply put, sometimes the movies suck. They’re either A: overrated or B: too melodramatic—so of course they run off with the Oscar. But this year, *wags finger* this year, I was able to agree with some of the winners. Besides Leonardo DiCaprio (FINALLY) taking home an Oscar, there was some buzz generated for the Best Picture Award: Spotlight. In all honesty, I didn’t intend to watch Spotlight just because it won an Oscar. I chose to watch it because having been fascinated by investigative journalism, I figured it’d be nice to delve deeper into that industry…plus I remember hearing my uncle say it was a good film, ha.

The squad

Directed by Tom McCarthy, Spotlight revolves around editor Marty Baron of the Boston Globe assigning a team of journalists (Team Spotlight) to investigate allegations against John Geoghan, a priest accused of molesting more than 80 boys. Led by Walter “Robby” Robinson (Michael Keaton), Spotlight’s reporters Michael Rezendes, Matt Carroll, and Sacha Pfeiffer (Mark Ruffalo, Brian d’Arcy James, Rachel McAdams), make it their goal to interview victims and find out why nothing was ever done about these allegations. The plot thickens when the possibility of a cover-up of sexual abuse on the Roman Catholic Church’s part comes into play, …and the proof they need is in sealed sensitive documents.

“If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to abuse one.”

Victim number one…

Now before I state what I think about the film, let’s focus on the positives. Positive number one: the plot. The plot was riveting in the sense that it was a true story, it focused on a power struggle, and it did not drag. Not once in the film did I internally moan at the pacing; it moved along just fine. McCarthy did not bog down the story with any unnecessary subplots. Many films make this mistake, believing that it’ll further draw in an audience—but it doesn’t. Spotlight follows a single story-line, as many films should. Furthermore, the plot itself is a powerful tale of the fight for justice—that everyone is responsible for their actions and no one can escape the consequences of those actions.

“I was eleven. And I was preyed upon by father David Holly in Wester. And I don’t mean prayed for, I mean preyed upon.”

Will justice be served?

Next positive: the acting. The acting by far was phenomenal. Admittedly, I had not seen much of any of the actors’ performances prior to this film. I had only seen Michael Keaton in Beetlejuice, (don’t punch me), and Rachel McAdams in The Notebook, Mean Girls, and Red Eye. You can only imagine my reaction to their acting upon watching this film. I had often asked my friends before, “what do you think makes a good actor? What do you consider to be bad acting?” I answered that question for myself upon viewing Spotlight—and I just can’t stop repeating it for myself—that acting…DAMN. The cast’s performances were rock-solid and realistic. McCarthy didn’t have to stir emotion using some sad instrumental music or loads of crying; he relied only on the actors’ skills, which greatly surpassed my expectations. After watching this film, I knew this was what ‘good acting’ was supposed to be.

“They say it’s just physical abuse but it’s more than that, this was spiritual abuse. You know why I went along with everything? Because priests, are supposed to be the good guys.”

Third positive: the cinematography—specifically the hues of the film. Spotlight was shot with grey, gloomy colors overshadowing the film. In my opinion, it worked very well as the subject of the film is serious.  In retrospect, the darkness of film depicted the dark content of Spotlight.

Time to research

Negative: a tiny point, but nevertheless, the plot. Although the plot was near-perfect, my only complaint was the slight murkiness of the beginning of the film. If one does pay absolute heed to the beginning of the film, that individual might be caught off guard in regards to what the goal of Spotlight was.

Another mini point was that many people deemed this movie to be a thriller; I think it was campaigned as a thriller as well. Honestly, I hardly saw any qualities of a ‘thriller.’ A mystery? Yes. A thriller? No. if McCarthy really intended the movie to be a thriller, I think he should have implemented more action/chase scenes. Now, I’m not talking about cars exploding as Deadpool broke the fourth wall. I’m talking about having someone’s life in actual danger—at the bare minimum.

“They knew and they let it happen! It could’ve been you, it could’ve been me, it could’ve been any of us.”

Final thoughts: I really enjoyed the film and can see why Spotlight took the Academy Award for Best Picture as well as for Best Screenplay. But most of all, I loved the message the film represented—that there is a lot of corruption in our society and we shouldn’t be deceived by appearances—especially when it comes to our world’s leaders. Our society deals with a power struggle where authorities believe that they are immune to crime and punishment. Furthermore, many assume that just because they’re top officials, they’re automatically the best and purest of the human race. Fact is, they’re human like everyone else, which means they have their own secrets and impurities as well. And it does not mean that they can get away with doing as they please without facing the consequences. Spotlight encourages us to be critical-thinkers and to open our eyes to what may be lurking behind the curtains.

Rating: R

Running Time: 2h 9 min

Final Verdict: A



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