Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Netflix Instant Movie Review: Spotlight (2015)

Spotlight (2015) - Directed by Tom McCarthy; Written by Josh Singer, McCarthy; Starring Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, Brian d'Arcy James, Stanley Tucci, Billy Crudup.

By Kenny Howell

Understatement is key.

Very rarely does Spotlight, the new film from Tom McCarthy about the uncovering of the massive child molestation scandal in the Catholic church, give its actors a moment to have that big scene. And it doesn't need it. The uncovering of information, and the process is what is key. The actors just need to assist that along.

The movie is a procedural at heart, as the four-member team of Spotlight work to uncover the scandal that rocked the Catholic Church back in 2001. Spotlight is the team on the Boston Globe that chases long-term, deep investigations on subjects. They are led Robby Robinson (Keaton), and include intensely, hounding reporter Mike Rezendes (Ruffalo), Sacha Pfeiffer (McAdams) and Matt Carroll (James). A new editor is brought on to run the paper, an outsider named Marty Baron (Schreiber). He encourages the team to look into a priest sexual abuse case a little further and see if there might be a bigger story there. The fact that he is an outsider is what this team needed to pursue something like this. Despite its size, Boston is still a small town in many ways, especially when it comes to the church. The movie insists that people are more willing to look the other way if something involves the church, and that includes the team of mostly homegrown journalists. The Spotlight team starts digging, and realizes it is more than just one case. It appears that numerous priests have been accused, and the church may have covered it up.

The story is pretty well known at this point, so it is quite impressive how surprising and effecting McCarthy is able to make the story. They pretty much stick to what the facts are, as Pfeiffer has said in interviews that there was very little changed in the actual filming. If there is one drawback for me, and it is minor, it is that the actors tried to do impressions of the actual reporters in the film. This is true especially of Ruffalo, who is constantly going at a 10, when the rest of the cast is dialed to a 6. It may be important for them to establish Rezendes' passion for his work, but it can be distracting at times. People don't necessarily know these people, so they could have strayed a bit to keep the movie tonally cohesive.

But, like I said, that is minor, and may not be a distraction for most. It is apparently not, because Spotlight  won Best Picture at this past year's Academy Awards. It is worthy of the praise, and deserves to be mentioned with other great journalism films like The Insider and All the President's Men.

Spotlight is currently streaming on Netflix Instant.

Rating: ***1/2

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