Spotlight has a stellar ensemble cast and a smart and well-paced script, but its rather brief run-time, procedural focus and abrupt conclusion lacks the impact needed to make it a truly great film.
Spotlight tells the story of the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation of the Catholic Church by the Boston Globe’s, Spotlight team in 2001. The film does a remarkable job at showing how the investigation grew and expanded exponentially as their investigation uncovered the staggering reach of the abuses by Catholic priests in the Boston area.
The ensemble cast is full of heavy hitters: Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, Brian d’Arcy James and Stanley Tucci. Tucci is great as the quick-witted, yet compassionate seen-it-all lawyer Mitchell Garabedian, and Ruffalo stands out as Mike Rezendes the most devoted investigator of the Spotlight team. The rest of the cast holds its own, with solid performances that serve to move the story along at a highly engaging pace, but there aren’t really any juicy roles in Spotlight – it’s a true ensemble cast, filled with reserved and realistic performances.
With such a dark subject as priests molesting children at its core, one would think the film would feel far more ominous than it does. Co-writer/director Tom McCarthy chooses to focus on the procedural elements of the newspaper business and investigative journalism as a whole, which serves to lighten the overall mood of the film. Whether this was McCarthy’s direct intention or simply a byproduct of his approach is unclear – but it works on most levels. Spotlight is a film that expertly romanticizes journalism at every twist and turn of the narrative. Centering Spotlight as a newspaper film is partially what makes it so engaging and quick, but focusing so heavily on procedural elements takes some time away from building the heart of the film. What is left is a well-made and constructed newspaper story that left me wanting more in terms of the grand scope and impact of this information being made public. The story is well-told, but ends rather abruptly – it could’ve used another half hour or so to really get into the heads of the victims and explore the ramifications after the Spotlight pieces were published.
Bottom Line: A well-acted and well-written ensemble, newspaper drama that teetered on greatness without ever fully reaching it.