Review: Spotlight ‘had me on the edge of my seat’

2nd February 2016 Off By Paul Barclay

As a journalism student, I have been asked more than once why it is a career I would want to follow. People tell me that journalists are morally corrupt and do not care about people, only stories. While I believe this may be true for some, the reasons I give are always the same.

Firstly, I love to write. If I can do it for a career, then great. But secondly, and more importantly, is that I believe that journalists can make a difference. This idea is something that was fully reinforced by watching Spotlight.

Spotlight is the true story of the Spotlight team, a group of investigative journalists for The Boston Globe, who in 2001, uncovered the biggest cover up of child sex abuse in the Catholic Church of that time. Systematic abuse that had passed silently for over 30 years.

The film follows their investigation and efforts to have the story published, while dealing with the various influences the church had throughout Boston, which is more than 50 per cent Catholic. It shows the struggles they have, the roadblocks they face and the personal issues that must be confronted.

Firstly, it would be very easy for a film such as this to be exploitative or for it to just focus on the horrific details of abuse, while giving no consideration to the victims or the reporters. Spotlight never does this.

There are one or two occasions where you are told what happened to the victims, but it is handled as gracefully as possible and is entirely necessary to illustrate the importance of this story. It is a film about people, not a film about incidents.

The film is anchored by strong performances from the entire cast. To attempt to pick out one performer above all the rest is an impossible task. It is for films like this, that there should be awards for an entire ensemble cast as opposed to one or two performers.

Whether it is Liev Schrieber’s newspaper editor, Marty Baron, who is able to cast an outsiders eye over the proceedings, or Michael Keaton’s performance as Walter ‘Robbie’ Robinson, who must confront his own journalistic past, there is not a bad performance throughout the entire film.

Mark Ruffalo has been nominated for an OSCAR for his performance as reporter, Michael Resendez, and it is fair to see why. It is a subtle, nuanced performance which explodes with emotion when necessary. But as said, there is not a single performance that is bad.

One other point worth mentioning is that at more than one point, interviews and stories end up leading nowhere, which I imagine would happen.

For example, and without giving anything away, there is a doorstep interview with a former priest that literally had me on the edge of my seat due to what was being said.

If you were writing this story in this environment, you would unfortunately turn a lot of loose ends, no matter how important they could prove to be.

Spotlight is a stunning movie. A genuine 5 star classic. It is a film that shows that people can make a difference, even when they decide to swim against the tide.

There are struggles, there is sadness and there is horror, but these are things that must be confronted in life.

I can honestly say that even though it is only the beginning of the year, I can not imagine seeing a better film in 2016. Spotlight is quite simply, my film of the year and I am certain will be when we welcome 2017.