We've already seen some really incredible films this year, such as The Hateful Eight and The Revenant and The Big Short. Well, the latest picture to join this list is Tom McCarthy's hotly-buzzed Spotlight. With Awards season now in full swing, this picture is set to be a big contender. Here's my review of it.

Based on true events, Spotlight tells the renowned story of the Boston Globe's eponymous Spotlight team. Consisting of four members, they choose their own topics and can spend months investigating their chosen story. They are autonomus from the rest of paper as they just work amongst themselves and keep their business amongst themselves too. However, when the newly hired editor-in-chief, Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber), comes in from Florida and catches onto a story about sexual abuse allegations of a Catholic priest - John Geogan - against a minor, he requests that the Spotlight team put their current project on hold and furhter investigate this instead. Reluctant to take on the case - seeing Baron as an outsider to Boston - the group of investigative journalists, Mike Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams), Matt Carroll (Brian d'Arcy James) and Spotlight editor Walter Robinson (Michael Keaton), accept but as they begin to dig deeper into their findings, they realise that the story is much bigger than they ever imagined. When they approach the lawyer on Geogan case, Mitchell Garabedian (Stanley Tucci), they are led on a trail of breadcrumbs leading them to a child molestation scandal much bigger than they ever predicted and the cover-up of it within the local Catcholic Archdiocese.
I have always been so fascinated by journalism. However, sometimes its representation in films can be a little skewed. If you look at a film like 2014's Nightcrawler, the news was portrayed as fairly dark and corrupt and it didn't really give journalism the greatest depiction ever (although, it was a chillingly great film). But, the majority of the time, the work that these reporters do is actually quite good and beneficial, as Spotlight shows - with the uncovering of such a huge scandal, as we see. Although, it's always harder to make an honest film about the honest, good work of reporters than it is to make a film about the twisted corruption and deceit that lies within this industry too. However, Tom McCarthy has done just that with Spotlight, create an journalistic film that is accurate and genuine whilst still being so entertaining! It's a very subdued and sublime picture, as a result - very dialogue and character driven. The subject matter of this film is very icky and disturbing and it's really hard to believe that this is a true story as the events unfold as it's a truly shocking film. However, it makes for some really engrossing viewing.

McCarthy, who both wrote the script and directed, has done a stellar job with this film. As I've mentioned, this is a very honest representation of journalism and the true story it's telling. The characters aren't portrayed as heroes but merely as reporters, passionate about what they do and about the story they are writing. There isn't anyone getting beat up to reveal information nor is there any big Hollywood-ised plot twist in which one of the Spotlight members is double-crossing the team or one of the editors at the Globe was in cahoots with the Catholic Church or anything. No. There is, however, lots of dialogue exchanges between the team as they try to figure this case out and there's intense interviews as the victims of the abuse explain their stories and there's lots of normal reporting going and re-presentations of what actually happened. However, McCarthy's script is just so riveting, the dialogue so juicy and rich and this true story is so shockingly good that it's hard not to get to gripped to this picture. It's a very tight, compact story and the film starts off good but then it just gets better and better and just more and more shocking and more and more enthralling. McCarthy's direction is remarkable and he has really told this story superbly, holding your interest from the first second to the last, keeping you wanting to know more.

The word ensemble is tossed around a lot when it comes to talking about films. However, never has the word been more appropriate than when in relation with Spotlight. This is an ensemble film that relies heavily on its entire cast, and everyone gives such great performances. Rachel McAdams is a delight to watch, as is Brian d’Arcy James. It’s also great seeing John Slattery and Stanley Tucci, really showing off their talents here. Live Schreiber is incredible. His performance is so subdued, as are most of the performances, but he brings a nice subtlety to his character – very reserved and atypical of what we’ve seen before from the actor. Michael Keaton is also great, in yet another great film – it’s nice to see that Birdman wasn’t a one-off and that he’s actually giving good performances in good films again. However, the standout is easily Mark Ruffalo. The actor really shows his dramatic side very well here and gives a very nuanced, compelling performance. However, everyone is phenomenal. These are all some pretty recognisable names in the film industry yet they all just disappear into their roles, to the extent that you forget you’re watching a film starring Michael Keaton or Mark Ruffalo but, instead, you merely see these characters because of how enthralled and invested you get into the story and into everyone involved. We really care for this story and these characters. You really believe these actors in their respective roles and their Boston accents are all spot on too, adding to the authenticity of the proceedings.

Spotlight is a masterpiece. This is a phenomenal achievement in filmmaking, acting, storytelling, directing and just cinema. Tom McCarthy has told one of the most shocking journalistic stories ever, the uncovering of one of the biggest sex scandals ever, shaking Boston's Catholic community to the core. This is a very real film and everything feels so authentic and genuine, to the extent that it's almost as though we're watching not a film, but a documentary, at points. It's an emotional rollercoaster and we really get invested into this story and these characters to the extent that there are time we're tearing up or getting frustrated when something doesn't go right or just rooting for our protagonists. It's a difficult subject matter to digest but, if this sort of film is your kind of thing, dialogue and character driven, very real, then I can't recommend this film enough. The acting is astouding; the cinematography is crisp and gorgeous; the use of music is incredible; the craftsmanship is of finesse and elegance. Spotlight is incredible. 

VERDICT:

Spotlight is a tense, riveting and utterly phenomenal masterpiece. Tom McCarthy's latest picture is one of the best films of the decade.


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About the Author

Awais Irfan
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.

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