Spotlight – Review


As a journalism student, I was naturally pulled in towards Spotlight. At this point I wasn’t even sure of the story, all I knew was that journalism was a key component. Then I dug a little deeper into the background before viewing. The story behind Spotlight is a tremendous one, but also majorly important. It is tough to take in, so did the film-makers make it enjoyable for the viewers?

(© – Open Road Films)

I’ll give you a run through of the plot for Spotlight. It is based in Boston, and revolves around child abuse committed by Priests. Now, the film isn’t necessarily about people finding out about the priests abusing children. Spotlight follows the bold team of journalists, who carried out a lengthy investigation into how child abuse was covered up by the Catholic Church, with revelations that were set to not only change the city, but the entire world.

The 2002 investigation shook the Catholic institution to its core, causing a mass crisis within it. Not only this though; for many people – the survivors – it was justice. They were finally getting some kind of peace from their earlier suffering. Seriously if you don’t know much about it, read up on it, then see the film.

I have no complaints, so let’s run through all the positives. The score compliments the film beautifully, and the direction is absolutely perfect. Tom McCarthy has managed to craft a film out of a rather tough story that is enjoyable for everyone. It’s certainly not boring, if anything it’s the opposite. Spotlight manages to be informative, exciting, electrifying, and just bloody brilliant consistently. And that’s with me not mentioning the cast. Hats off to McCarthy, he’s done an incredible job.

The Spotlight team hard at work. (© – Open Road Films)

What’s important to note is the film never at any point makes these reporters out to be some mighty, powerful figures. They were just your everyday journalists, who were told to investigate a story by their editor. In the film you get to see the clear struggles they went through – whether it was the ethical issues talking to victims, problems trying to obtain information and evidence to use, or simply their own personal problems as a result of increasing pressure. Don’t get me wrong though, these reporters are very much ‘heroes’. The film respects them, and honors them as a result.

Now for the cast themselves – one of the best ensembles I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching. All of them flow together fantastically, showing us the kind of chemistry you’d expect from a small team of journos. Whilst this makes each scene miles better, you cannot deny each cast member their own praise.

Therefore, let’s start with the main female cast member; Rachel McAdams. She plays the tenacious Sasha Pfeiffer, and she doesn’t disappoint. I found her very believable throughout, and it’s nice to see her get an Oscar nomination. Brian d’Arcy James plays Matt Carroll, a mild-mannered reporter who keeps his cool, but finds himself struggling as the investigation carries on. Mark Ruffalo plays Mike Rezendes, a hyper-active, excitable, but at his core dedicated reporter who becomes massively attached to the story. Ruffalo provides the more emotional scenes in the film, including a memorable, impassioned speech to his team. Give Ruffalo his Oscar – he’s earned it. Other cast members, especially Stanley Tucci and Liev Schreiber, pull their weight and provide performances all of which give the film that exhilarating edge.

Mark Ruffalo gives it his all in Spotlight. (© – Open Road Films)

Finally Michael Keaton as the leader of the ‘Spotlight’ investigative team, Walter Robinson. Following his return to our screens in last years Birdman, this role is certainly more grounded, but just as memorable. His character goes through the struggles of uncovering a scandal in a ‘town’ which has been his bread and butter from day one. He brings a lot of impact to the screen, and gives us another fine performance.

There’s a line late in the film that stuck out to me: “No-one wants to read about kids being raped by priests”. Whilst it is difficult to face the film’s grim subject matter, it is impossible to ignore the expertise and genuine care taken with the production. Throw in a sublime cast, perfect direction, a razor sharp script and a gorgeous score – you get something truly unforgettable. Spotlight is a tense, absorbing film, that is ultimately one of the most important films of our time. I would even go as far to say this should win Best Picture.


Check out the trailer for Spotlight here:

Planning on seeing Spotlight? Let me know what you think in the comments or tweet @film_swot.

Author: Cameron Frew

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Cameron Frew

Freelance film writer. Words on Flickering Myth, Bloody Disgusting, Movie Corner UK and Jumpcut Online. My five favourite films are: 1. The Goonies 2. Forrest Gump 3. The Shawshank Redemption 4. Warrior 5. Whiplash

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