While the world turned a blind eye to the Church’s wrong-doings, one news group forgave no sins and delivered us from evil. The exposé of their exposé could be this year’s most intensely interesting Oscar frontrunner.
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Based on the infamous, year-long journalist investigation, Spotlight commences in 2001, as the prestigious Boston Globe newspaper hires a new editor, Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber). Baron’s interest is immediately sparked by a small column that reveals a local priest to be a paedophile, and that the Archbishop of Boston was aware, but did nothing to stop him. Alarmed that such a scandalous case has gone mostly unnoticed, Baron requests that the Globe’s “Spotlight” team (Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams and Brian d’Arcy James) – known for their in-depth probing and analysis of sensitive subjects – abandon their current story to investigate. As they delve deeper down the rabbit-hole, the group discovers the horrifying and enormous amount of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church around the world that has been covered-up for decades by lawyers, the government and high-ranking religious officials themselves.
How director Tom McCarthy has managed to jump from one of last year’s worst films (Adam Sandler disaster The Cobbler) to one of this year’s best, is anyone’s guess, but it would seem he’s a rare example of a filmmaker using criticism to discipline himself. Spotlight is an exercise in enormous restraint – there are no flashy visuals on display, no ravenous editing flair, no showy lighting or elegant cinematography; aesthetically, it has all the grandeur of a sitcom. It’s a wise choice, and appropriate given the difficult subject matter. This is a very raw experience, where typical big budget constructs are ignored entirely in favour of a dialogue heavy script and an excellent cast that is given the freedom to bounce off one another at a rapid-fire pace.
The term ‘ensemble piece’ is often thrown around without much thought behind it, but Spotlight is the real deal. Each actor is a cog turning inside a machine that adds up to something greater from the sum of its parts. It’s a very real team dynamic, where each member is utilised equally and brings their own personal skills to the table in the exposé. Perhaps rightfully so, it’s Rachel McAdams and Mark Ruffalo who have been singled out for the Oscar nods; particularly Ruffalo, whose character is gifted with the chance to vent his anxiety and frustration at the many setbacks the investigation faces. But there’s meat aplenty to chew on in every role, even in the supporting ones filled out by Stanley Tucci, John Slattery and Billy Crudup; it really is a serious actor’s wet dream.
The details are in the drama in Spotlight; it’s all about intrigue and the shock of discovery, rather than the revelation and aftermath that rocked the world. Films of such grave nature are always destined to divide audiences and cause controversy – no doubt this already has again with the Catholic Church, who can only be displeased at the topic resurfacing to wide awareness – but these are merely the cold, hard facts presented as they should be. We’re left with the terrifying reminder that even a community that embraces morality and virtues; that has been trusted by people for centuries, has its own evil underbelly. Who can we turn to when our faith is shaken in anything perceived as good? The only rightful answer to the purveyors of big questions like these is the twinkle of Oscar gold.
Spotlight is available in Australian cinemas from January 28th
Images courtesy of Entertainment One Films Australia