Starring Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Live Schreiber, Stanley Tucci, Billy Crudup, John Slattery
Tom McCarthy seems like a pretty talented guy, high praise for his supporting acting roles, received an Oscar nomination for animated scripts like “Up”, and consulted on the record breaking first season of “Game of Thrones”. Yet Tom McCarthy for all his various hats is at his most prolific when he is writing and directing his scripts. Need more proof, just watch “The Station Agent” (2003), “The Visitor” (2007) and “Win Win” (2011). Yet, McCarthy’s work is somehow continually overlooked by mainstream audiences. All that is about to change with “Spotlight” which is McCarthy’s most solid work to date and arguably his most important.
The Boston Globe’s new editor Marty Baron (Schreiber) has suggested that the famed investigative staff of “Spotlight” focus their resources on a local case where a priest is accused of molesting young children. Spotlight stories can takes months, even years to flush out before they go to print, this one turns out to be no exception. Walter Robinson (Keaton) leads the team as they uncover hundreds of victims, 90 accused priests and a widespread cover up. Their splinter type reporting has all four journalists in various sections of Boston trying to find the evidence linking the Cardinal to the scandal. The entire team at Spotlight and Baron put the entire reputation of the newspaper on the line for their explosive investigation.
The only thing “Spotlight” lacks is a "wow" moment, maintaining a steady heartbeat pace throughout.
“Spotlight” gets everything right due to really powerful performances from an ensemble cast. Mark Ruffalo is the stand out, with high energy in his character. There is at least one scene that might be enough to land him a slot in the best supporting actor award race. This ensemble film has a lot of material to cover and the editing really does a nice job at keeping the viewer engaged. The piano score by Oscar winner Howard Shore really helps connect the film that essentially works to deliver information. McCarthy sites “All the Presidents Men” and “Frost/Nixon” as inspirational examples, although the way the “Spotlight” journalists investigate the story and the pushback they receive is more reminiscent of Soderberg’s “Erin Brockovich” (without the grandstanding). In fact the only thing “Spotlight” lacks is a “wow” moment, maintaining a steady heartbeat pace throughout.
“Spotlight” chances at an Academy Award nomination for best picture are high. It’s an important story with unsung journalist-heroes that might not be everyone’s first choice, but it’s the type of film that could actually win by being every single voters’ number two spot on the ballot. McCarthy injects such brilliant writing into the screenplay, every single scene feels important and necessary, with nothing added just for effect. The script also allows the audience moments for applause as the journalists make headway in the truly disturbing findings. The main characters as well as the many faces on screen all feel authentic which adds to the levity of the film even though procedure often takes the place of emotion.
Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight might be the one film audiences and voters can agree on this year.