Spotlight (USA, 2015)

spotlight_ver2Directed by: Tom McCarthy. I almost didn’t pick this one up because honestly, it looked like another Oscar-bait “tough” movie that’s actually fluff, another showcase for middle-aged white guys, a Hollywood Liberal moral crusader picture that aims at low-hanging fruit, and other cynical generalizations that came to mind. But what can I say—it looks like a great cast, and a compelling story, “based on true facts”, and it got good reviews. And it was free at the library, so what is there to lose? Potentially 2 hours of your life, but in this case, it was time well spent. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a fantastic movie; in fact, it’s not even noteworthy. I’ve seen better films, but boy have I ever seen worse. This is at least in the ballpark of being an interesting, well-done film, and it just tips over into the neighborhood of being original and thought-provoking, and here’s why. I was expecting the film to do two things that it didn’t do—climax with one or two (or fucking five with some of these movies) huge, knock-down drag-out yelling matches between characters, which amounts to each actor leaving teeth marks in the fucking scenery, and which usually amounts (my personal soapbox) in getting a fucking Oscar because yelling is apparently equivalent to good acting; and I was expecting the ultimate climax to be them breaking the story and then facing all the horrible backlash from the Church, the media, the community who is deeply ingrained in the Church, in steep denial, etc. Now, I’m definitely glad that the first thing didn’t happen, but I’m not sure about the second. While I was glad to see the film wrap up when it did, not pushing the 2-hour mark like I was expecting, it did feel a bit anti-climactic, but maybe that’s a good thing. It’s a subtle thing, but that really deviated from the genre expectations, which maybe were still fresh from watching The Insider—but I really thought that the pushback from powerful forces would play a huge role in this. What we get instead is the pushback leading up to the article’s publication, which is much more subtle, not embodied in any single person, and this is the third great thing about this film (among the great things about this film are the following!). There’s no big bad guy, not really. The closest we get is the Cardinal, whose major crime is that he knew and he covered it up, which is terrible. But the film is smart enough and mature enough to point out that the real crime is that everyone else knew, and did nothing. And for a while, that’s embodied in the slimey lawyer played excellently by Billy Crudup, but he did do something—he gave it to the newspapers! And the big bombshell which I thought was coming was that there would be some bad apple in the news team whose secret Catholicism motivates him to sabotage the investigation—I thought it would be John Slattery. But no, in fact, it’s one of the main, main protagonists, Michael Keaton—not a machiavellian, scheming act of evil, but an everyday, passive, ignorant, cowardly act of passing the buck. And that kind of shit is what we all do every damn day, and for that reason, this is a quietly excellent movie. There you go, by the end of the review, my esteem for this has bumped up several notches. Good work, everyone! Also, P.S., the writer/director is the guy who played the slimey journalist in season 5 of The Wire, so check that out too.

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2 responses to “Spotlight (USA, 2015)

  1. Pingback: Kill the Messenger (USA, 2014) | Offhand Reviews·

  2. Pingback: The Stanford Prison Experiment (USA, 2015) | Offhand Reviews·

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