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Spotlight Review: important and harrowingly perfect

Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight is befitting of its name in more ways than one; unlike most true story tales Spotlight shines the light on its characters, its stories and its findings never allowing embellishment, hero worshipping or grandstanding.

Spotlight follows the Pulitzer Prize winning team from the Boston Globe that researched and fought for months and months to uncover a degenerate clergy operating and molesting young children in Boston. As they track down victims they uncover a scandal that would rock the Catholic Church to its core.

The Story – A-

One can’t attack a true story for its narrative or character arcs because this actually happened nor does one want to. Spotlight’s script and focus is nigh on perfect. It doesn’t pull any punches in portraying the crimes with utter brutality but also a sense that this sort of thing was the norm in the city of Boston. And as mentioned the film doesn’t attempt to alleviate its central characters into heroes. More often than not they are just doing their jobs. We don’t get peep shows into their personal problems, instead flitting by them in passing lines of dialogue, with the scenes firmly focused on what matters: the scandal.

The Direction – A

McCarthy, a director who has yet to really hit it out of the park, really hits it out of the park. Spotlight makes perfect use of Howard Shore’s tingly and sombre soundtrack to deliver something important and harrowingly perfect. McCarthy puts the actors and story front and centre and takes a back seat. There is no visual style because this is a story that needs to be told without a filter. The editing, of which McCarthy was surely involved, is rapid yet lingering, voyeuristic yet tense and flawless. It slaps the story on the front page and just lets us read it absent of Hollywood flourishes.

The Acting – A-

With a cast boating the likes of Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery and Stanley Tucci, Spotlight was destined to be something special but armed with an astounding script, penned by McCarthy and Josh Singer (West Wing, Fringe, The Fifth Estate), the aforementioned talent turns in something fleetingly brilliant. Keaton, Schreiber, Slattery and Tucci melt into their roles with veteran sensibilities and when they’re on screen you are in their world. Ruffalo and McAdams are arguably the film’s centrepieces with Ruffalo turning a shouty scene into something viscerally emotional.

Spotlight is one of those rare moments where art dwindles on that line of importance and entertainment. Spotlight isn’t meant to be entertaining, despite holding your attention 100% of the time, it is a publically important story that transcends the label of art and truly showcases the sacrifice and seedy underbelly of humanity without ever diluting its true story with flashes of personal commentary.

Score – A


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