(2015, Tom McCarthy)
**** + (out of 5)
The previews looked great, the critics were in rare agreement, (A Critical Consensus had it pegged at 9.1!), word-of-mouth represents the movie as one of the best released so far this year, but SPOTLIGHT is not a good film. It’s a near-great one.
> Every choice made here is so very, very effective. It will spark inevitable comparisons with ALL THE PRESIDENTS MEN, because both tell exciting stories featuring investigative journalists as heroes in uncovering massive secrets the public needed to know about. For me, SPOTLIGHT is clearly the better of the two films. (Although this could be because I just was not mature enough to get into the 1976 film about the unraveling of the Watergate scandal. Kevin the senior is a very different filmgoer than Kevin the youth.) This story about the “Spotlight” team from the Boston Globe uncovering heinous corruption at the top of the Catholic Church just had everything going for it. The story was timely and compelling, the scrip, (a whole lotta talk!), was sharp and literate and never pandering to kneejerk emotions invoked by the subject of pedophile priests. The cast was so uniformly excellent that together, they make a good argument for a new Oscar category: “Best Ensemble Cast”. I mean, check out this firepower: Stanley Tucci, Rachel McAdams, John Slattery, Billy Crudup, Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo and Liev Schreiber! Together, they play a gang that has a tiger by the tail. But all they can see is the tail, until the tiger takes notice. They all give fine performances, with Ruffalo and Keaton standing out just a bit. (I am so thankful that BIRDMAN gave Michael Keaton another chapter to his career!)
. The rich and perfectly calibrated score was written by the great Howard Shore. The editing paces the breaking story expertly, and despite all the dialogue and the dearth of action, it keeps the audience riveted. I noticed myself spacing-out with an inner monologue exactly once, for about 5 seconds. I have noticed, as a professional storyteller, that audiences need a pause every now and then to digest all the information they’ve just heard. Those five seconds are the only criticism I could offer about this fine, fine film- and that’s nothin’.
. Director Tom McCarthy has been around as a familiar character actor all the way back to Michael Kelly’s TV sensation “Ally McBeal”, with 38 acting credits listed on IMDB- but this is only his fifth feature. It strains credulity that the man who brought the world the Adam Sandler dog THE COBBLER should be the same man who delivered this Oscar-worthy gem! But look at the other films in McCarthy’s resume: WIN WIN, (2011, loved it), THE VISITOR, (2007, loved it) and THE STATION AGENT (2003, loved it). Best Director nom? I don’t see why not. Best Picture nom? I would bet on it.
> Best Picture win? ALL THE PRESIDENTS MEN won…
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