Flash Reviews Are Short & Fast, But Stuffed With Nerdy Goodness.
How do you shine a light through an opaque system? When the media, politicians, lawyers, and authorities look the other way it poses quite a challenge for truth seekers.
Before social media took over and dictated what CNN reports, journalists probed deep to investigate and uncover the truth. SPOTLIGHT is the name given to a devoted team of Boston Globe journalists, who specialize in shining the light into the darkness. Their latest assignment illuminates the horror of child abuse in the Catholic Church.
Michael Keaton leads this elite team of writers. His performance is quite reserved compared to his usual live-wire manic roles. Let’s say it’s more subtle than BIRDMAN. Keaton’s character traverses an emotional arc with a bitter sweet finale. While Keaton is impressive, Mark Ruffalo is even better.
Every performance is top-notch here, including co-stars like Stanley Tucci; however, Ruffalo disappears the most into his role. His physicality draws you in, like his fast talking through a clenched mouth. Ruffalo is also the most determined and outwardly emotional. Perhaps, he reacts as the audience expects, so he is easy to root for and attach ourselves to as one of the heroes.
Ruffalo’s hard-nosed journalist is contrasted with Rachel McAdams. Her journalist relates to several victims as she conducts intimate interviews about their tragic past. She never once over-sympathizes or gets too emotional. She knows they will feel better by reporting the truth and getting their story out there.
Like Keaton, McAdams is also subtle and restrained. When she lands an important interview with a priest, she doesn’t appear too frazzled. Rather, she invites us inside her character. Knowing the importance of this moment, and relating to these journalists, makes the audience even more anxious.
The surprise performance here was from the quiet yet imposing, Liev Schreiber. He points the Spotlight team in the right directions, determined to reveal the sexual abuse Church scandal. While he’s making some brash decisions, like “suing” the Church, he is so calm he might as well be taking a nap. Despite this subdued performance, Schreiber’s dominance is ever present, like a gentle giant.
Part of what makes SPOTLIGHT so enthralling is the brilliant storytelling. Despite the dense material and controversial nature, the story moves along at a tight pace. With a lot of clever dialogue and a focus on the truth, this movie feels like a 2-part episode of the excellent (and ignored) NEWSROOM (written by Aaron Sorkin).
Sensitive subject matter is handled carefully. There isn’t a confrontation between a victim or the abuser. There is no heated rant aimed at a priest. The director wisely makes this about the victims, and boldly shifts the focus to the system that protects (or disguises) the tragedies of their young “flock.”
While we hear from victims, these sequences are never embellished with a manipulative score or a reliance on emotional close-ups. When these interviews happen, they are presented rather matter-of-factly, like a documentary.
SPOTLIGHT reminds us of the importance of investigative journalism. Many reporters today just repeat information. They don’t uncover their own stories with research like the Boston Globe team featured in this film. Journalists like this need to be championed because they are invaluable to our society. This movie does an amazing job emphasizing their importance.
There’s a lot of award buzz surrounding this complicated story. The hype is deserved, especially for screenplay and direction. This is one of the best dramas of the year. Do not let this one Slip/through the cracks.
* A NOTE ON THE / RATING SYSTEM (PINK = HALF) *
///// WORTH BUYING – ///// THEATER – ///// RENTAL – ///// NETFLIX – ///// SLIP ON THROUGH
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