Review: Spotlight – A worthy tale, delicately told

Spotlight is the kind of movie that you discuss, dissect and debate on the walk home from a packed cinema on a chilly Sunday night; directed by Tom McCarthy, it is designed to make the audience feel uncomfortable. And rightly so. This movie tells the true story of the Boston Globe discovering the huge scandal of molestation within the local Catholic Archdiocese, and the attempted Church cover-up. As each stage of the horrific wrongdoing is revealed you can’t help but physically gasp. Indeed, it is more shocking than any film in recent memory.

That is in large part down to the performances in the film, which are outstanding: the whole ensemble shows great restraint in their acting, and their refreshingly delicate delivery grounds the film – I only spotted one ‘Oscar moment’, but it felt appropriate at the time. Some were surprised Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams had been nominated for Oscars, but it’s clear why they were picked. The standout performance, however, was Michael Keaton as Walter Robinson, who has followed up his critically-acclaimed role in Birdman with an excellent display of physical acting. Every time a new piece of information is uncovered you can tell by just his tone of voice and facial expressions the gravity of the situation.

Understated performances and serious subject matter require understated filmmaking, and cinematographer Masanobu Takayanagi delivers, doing a great job with subtle, smooth camera movements hold the tension very well and put us at the heart of the action. The score, too, avoids becoming melodramatic, composer Howard Shore building pressure well throughout the movie.

Possibly Spotlight’s only flaw is that it lacked any hard-hitting emotional impact. The content will floor you, but you may leave wishing you felt a bit more for the characters. It’s a struggle to build up any connection – something that other recent movies, such as Carol and Room, have excelled at. Nonetheless, it’s an exceptionally important film, one that needed to be made, and it deserves all the critical acclaim that it is receiving.

James Berman

Image courtesy of Open Road films

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