Masterful Execution: A Review of ‘Spotlight’

Posted in Festival Coverage, Movies, Theatrical, TIFF 2015 by - November 13, 2015
Masterful Execution: A Review of ‘Spotlight’

One of the hardest things in life to ever shine a light on is the truth.

Expectations for films quite often tend to get inflated during their festival runs, but when something holds up, you know you have something special.  After his venture into absurdist comedy, writer/director Tom McCarthy rebounds with Spotlight, a gripping true story that is a near master class in the art of storytelling.

One of the oldest cities in North America, Boston is one of the bedrocks of education and medicine with a rich history like none other, but when the Boston Globe’s “Spotlight” investigation team delves into allegations of abuse in the Catholic Church, their yearlong investigation turns up more than they had ever bargained for as they uncover a decade’s long cover up that reaches through all the halls of power that sent shock waves around the world.

A little more nuanced then your standard slice of history, Spotlight not only deals with the nuts and bolts of the investigation but on the emotional toll that it took on those involved as they make peace with something they all feel like they should have noticed or said something about years earlier.

In these days of the 24 hour news cycle, Spotlight manages to highlight the importance of investigative journalism and reporting.  McCarthy doesn’t hit us over the head with any trite speeches or forced moments of melodrama and he lets the facts of the case unfold in such a fantastic fashion that we can’t get helped but get absorbed, not only in the story but in the people who are working their asses off in order to tell it the right way.  He doesn’t have to revert to any cheap storytelling tricks in order to get his point across, it’s a procedural with cracker jack timing that throws us into the middle of the story and never lets us go as it all plays out in the moment and he dives into the corruption of the system, he shows us that it isn’t some nasty conspiracy, it’s just born out of systemic apathy which is even worse than any of us ever imagined.  Its vibrant storytelling from beginning to end that knows to keep it simple as he directs some incredibly strong performances from his ensemble.

Riding the wave from his triumph in Birdman, Michael Keaton is an absolute rock in this film as world weary editor Walter “Robby” Robinson who has to guide his crack team through some incredibly emotional waters that they are set out into by new editor Marty Baron played Liev Schreiber.  Mark Ruffalo stands out yet again as impassioned reporter Mike Rezendes and John Slattery as Senior Editor Ben Bradlee Jr adds a yet another level of emotional resonance to everything that unfolds.  It’s a loaded ensemble cast and there is never any moment of rest, as everything we see is simply important and vital to the story and everyone from Rachel McAdams to Stanley Tucci to Paul Guilfoyle to Billy Crudup and Jamey Sheridan make it all play like absolute jazz.

That’s what Spotlight is; it’s like a perfect piece of music.  Even if it isn’t necessarily your cup of tea, you can’t help but marvel at the masterly execution of this story.  It’s how stories need to be told, no tricks, no gimmicks just the facts and the people who finally realize that it needs to be told.

  • Release Date: 11/13/2015
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David Voigt is a Toronto based writer with a problem and a passion for the moving image and all things cinema. Having moved from production to the critical side of the aisle for well over 10 years now at outlets like, Criticize This, Dork Shelf (Now That Shelf), to.Night Newspaper he’s been all across his city, the country and the continent in search of all the news and reviews that are fit to print from the world of cinema.
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