Movie Review: Spotlight
By Matthew Huntley
November 30, 2015
And so, over the course of the next year, amidst other major news events like 9/11, the Spotlight team works tirelessly to connect all the dots and threads behind this conspiracy, gaining a newfound perspective of just how much power and influence the Catholic Church wields, and not just in Boston, but all over the world.
For the most part, Spotlight unravels like most investigative thrillers and its tactics aren’t anything we haven’t seen before, but this traditional approach by director Tom McCarthy works well because it allows us to pay close attention as events unfold and the characters speak key dialogue. His and Josh Singer’s screenplay finds a good balance of plot and substance and we really come to empathize with the Spotlight team as they research and orchestrate their story. Just as they do, we grow frustrated by all the bureaucratic and logistical hurdles and we recognize the emotional and moral dilemmas the story poses, especially since the investigators are all Catholics themselves.
There’s also a fair amount of tension as pressure mounts on Spotlight to break the story first. These moments are followed by deep, personal reflections as each staff member considers his and her own devoutness and longstanding history with the church. The underlying question they all ask is, why hasn’t anyone done anything about this? (Robby’s transformation is particularly hard-hitting because he learns this story was brought to him years ago but he buried it in the metro section.)
Because Deliver Us From Evil was so compelling and draining, I actually hold it in higher regard than Spotlight. Berg’s film certainly wasn’t pleasant viewing but it was, I feel, essential and I think watching it first will make Spotlight seem like a reward and an earned break from material that’s already hard to accept. But even if I hadn’t seen the documentary prior, I would still recognize the virtues of McCarthy’s narrative. It gives us a real sense of what Spotlight had to do to reveal the truth. The direction is sharp, the storytelling is rhythmic and flows easily, and the performances all hit a genuine note. An added bonus is that one need not watch Spotlight in stages, and although that might not make it as indelible as Deliver Us From Evil, it’s still a film that will have viewers talking about it long after they leave the theater.