TIFF 2015: Spotlight
One of the hot titles making the rounds on the fall film festival circuit this year is Tom McCarthy’s latest Spotlight. Earlier this month it premiered at the Venice Film Festival and Telluride Film Festival before hitting Toronto. Set in 2001, the film tells the story of how a team of reporters at the Boston Globe newspaper uncovered the massive scandal of systemic child abuse within the Catholic Church. Looking to redeem himself from last year’s disaster The Cobbler, McCarthy has crafted a taught, fast-paced thriller.
When new Editor-in-chief Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber) arrives at the Boston Globe, he decides that the paper’s investigative Spotlight team will dig deeper on a news story surrounding abuse claims against a local priest. As they begin researching and combing through past articles, they begin to uncover the names of more priests and victims and the names of lawyers defending the victims and church. The team files to have documents from the previous cases unsealed while tracking down victims willing to talk about the abuse. The soon discover the scope of what they are dealing with as they find patterns that lead them almost 90 priests in Boston who have abused children. Cover-ups, complacency, fear, and settlements led to the burying of this story. When the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 happened, the investigation was put on hold but several weeks later the team was back on it. After the better part of a year working on this story, the Spotlight team published the article in the early part of 2002, opening the door for other victims and information to be revealed. Approximately 600 articles were published on the story and abuse scandals were uncovered across the world. The team went on to win a Pulitzer Prize for their work.
With a story as large as this, it was essential the director and writers boil it down to just the essential elements for this film adaptation. By only focusing on the key points, the film is able to traverse through the months of investigation quickly and succinctly, creating an engaging film that holds the viewer right to the very end.
The cast of actors assembled for this project is impressive and they deliver brilliant performances that demand attention. They work together with fluidity, each having their moments to absolutely shine. The renaissance of Michael Keaton continues and Mark Ruffalo continues to elevate his work with each project. This is certainly an ensemble piece worthy of awards attention.
After all the work that went into investigating and compiling the story throughout the film, the ending does come as somewhat of a let down. It finishes just as the article has been published, with title cards providing additional information as to what impact it had. It feels rushed and abrupt, leaving the viewer wanting more; it feels as though there’s still more to see. However, this doesn’t significantly detract from the enjoyment of the film. This biting and snappy film entertains and enthralls, and is one of the best of the year.
This film captivated me despite moderate expectations, and then let me down right at the end. They did a fantastic job of presenting the reveals to the audience, keeping you hooked as each layer of the conspiracy is pulled back. The dawning horror on the parts of the reporters is evident with beautifully subtle acting choices. You can truly sense of their conflict of responsibility to their community – being urged to let the status quo stand, or to blow open the scandal and irreparably change how the city views its faith. It’s because of this that I agree with Jason that the ending is so rushed as to feel unfulfilling. I was waiting for the emotional payoff of seeing each member of the crew adjusting to the new world that they helped create. Instead we just get some impersonal info cards.