There isn’t a single moment of wasted space in Spotlight. Sharp and incisive, it’s a dramatic tour de force, tracking the investigative reporters who uncovered the historic child abuse epidemic in the Catholic Church. It’s edited with immaculate precision, not lagging for a second, ensuring every moment counts and that every moment feels true.
Director Tom McCarthy has brought together an extraordinary ensemble, making it difficult to pick a standout between Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachael McAdams, John Slattery and Liev Schreiber – a powerful team of diligent and determined journalists each enthusing so much naturalism through McCarthy and Josh Singer’s tight script. It’s the attention to detail in the performances which is most remarkable, like how Ruffalo holds his shoulders within his poorly fitting shirts, conveying so much character through something so simple. Actually, if one performance has to be singled out it probably would be Ruffalo, who has this kinetic, boyish erraticism. It’s a delicately physical performance buried quietly within a film that has so much strong and powerful dialogue.
With subject matter so revelatory and characters so smart and decisive, Spotlight could easily feel uncomfortably self-righteous, but its characters are complicated and we learn about them through their actions and behaviours, far more so than any artificial sentimental moments. Considering the emotive subject, Spotlight has a remarkably unsentimental script. It’s reminiscent of the high points of The West Wing, featuring these fascinating, straight headed, smart but difficult people speaking lots of smart and snappy dialogue whilst walking down corridors and trying to do the right thing amidst enormous pressure. In this online media world in which even reputable outlets now rely on clickbait to stay afloat, Spotlight is an important reminder of the necessity of quality investigative journalism. But it’s more than important, it’s a fantastic and exciting thriller. It feels like this is how these important revelations unfolded. There are no false, emotional flourishes here, simply intense realism.
Review by David Rank
Spotlight is out now in the UK. Rating 15 (UK). Running time 129 mins.