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Spotlight - Tom McCarthy's Masterpiece
SPOTLIGHT is a masterstroke, the greatest effort to date of director, co-screenwriter and former journalist Tom McCarthy, and deserves a spot in the top tier of the best films of 2015. Films about journalists fascinate me because oftentimes to truly work they require a script with a resplendent understanding of how the profession works, and how they employ problem-solving when working on a story. It is a thrill to watch these characters think, and to watch this movie move along. It is a tightly wound contraption, paced with meticulous thought, the running time goes by like a blur.
Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber) has interest in an old case involving potential abuses from the Catholic Church in Boston. So he has the Spotlight team (among them Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, all pitch-perfect) look into it. Things begin to get bigger and bigger from there as this blows up into a story nobody could have expected.
There are no real notable moments in SPOTLIGHT, because it is a film all about the process in which these reporters put their case together. It is a thrill to watch these people work, and the script by McCarthy and Josh Singer sizzles with intelligence. This film’s dialogue gives it a sense of authenticity comparable to a documentary.
SPOTLIGHT also wrestles with some very big themes. The film analyzes the influence institutions like the church have on communities, and how humans are so easy to be apologists when said institutions fail them, as the Catholic Church failed in this regard on a deep level. There’s a great scene where Keaton’s Robby Robinson is talking with somebody he’s trying to get a signature from whom he’s known for some time, and the subject turns to how quickly these abuses got swept under the rug, even by Robinson’s own newspaper. It’s a human moment, and an honest one. SPOTLIGHT wrestles with some of the same themes that 2015’s BLACK MASS also wrestles with, only in SPOTLIGHT the city of Boston crackles with life and history.
SPOTLIGHT is a brutal film, albeit through its dialogue. The film intentionally tries to get you mad about these oversights, and it succeeds with aplomb. It is a film made with workmanlike care, about people who have a responsibility to keep the public informed and how that can sometimes get out of their control. It is a masterpiece.