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I have a problem. OK, sure, I have many problems but one in particular is going to see films about historical events. Specifically; events that, if they were people, they would barely have learnt to stop soiling themselves.
Spotlight features a story that is barely older than a few years so if you are unaware of the story then you must have been on a trip to the moon because Spotlight focuses on the well told story systemic child abuse within the church.
Unlike The Big Short which I thought was fantastic, Spotlight doesn’t put any sort of fun or innovative twist on storytelling instead deciding to go down the route of what feels like a very factual and honest portrayal of the effort needed to uncover this story.
Unfortunately the effort to uncover the story is not what I find fascinating about this scandal and I actually left the cinema not entirely sure who did what, why or when because the script name-drops so many people that its often hard to keep track of.
These name drops are mainly of various priests, lawyers, police, government officials and PR. If they mixed in bankers and salesmen then this would be a real minefield of high-grade arseholes. The sparkliest glitter covered turds of humanity.
Perhaps this is just my bias against said professions but it would have been nice if the film was a bit more fiercely critical about those who perpetually covered up child abuse. I was expecting for the film to unashamedly bash the bishops – for want of a better term – but instead, Spotlight is a piece of film-making that shies away from controversy in favour of building characters in an admittedly unbiased and balanced manner.
If you look at it from this perspective then it is a really good film. Michael Keaton is excellent as Walter ‘Robby’ Robinson – the head of Spotlight reporting division in the Boston Globe but for me it was Mark Ruffalo (Mike Rezendes) as an earnest yet determined reporter who was the highlight.
Ruffalo only manages to steal the show by feeding off the co-stars. With a supporting cast that stars Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber and Stanley Tucci it’s very hard for this not to be a well acted film.
Let’s go back to my original hang-up about “historical” films. The Big Short was also only yesterday, hell we are still feeling the fallout from the economic collapse today – vital emergency services are being screwed even as I write this. Anyway, the majority of us mere mortals, the ants that are scrabbling in the dirt, don’t/didn’t understand why and how the hell the meltdown happened in the first place.
In stark contrast though; Spotlight, I believe, is well understood. Sure, I had no idea it was one small team called Spotlight in the basement of a Boston newspaper that uncovered the information but the wider picture is obvious: Caught fiddy kiddling, swept under carpet.
Yup, got it, remember it well. Don’t need a film about it – at least not now.
Even so, there are a few really great moments that coincide with breakthrough moments of the investigation. Bolstered by the excellent cast these such moments make the film worth watching.
Spotlight seems like the weakest entry in the Oscar race. It’s told in a way that is heavy on facts but often low in subjective emotion and style. The message of the film is not scathing enough to amend or re-affirm your perception of a scandal that doesn’t need to be re-told this soon. Like the priests under investigation, Spotlight takes something that is young yet full of promise and gets it’s hand on it before it’s ready!
The Good, The Bad and The Outcome:
+ Mark Ruffalo
+ Great Supporting Cast
+ The few a-ha moments
– Too soon
– Focuses on the uninteresting part of the story
– Not as critical as I would have liked