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Spotlight Movie Review (Spoiler Free)

Based on the real investigative reports of a group of journalists in Boston, this dramatic biopic tells the story of how the scandal of child molestation by priests was uncovered.

Genre: Biography, Drama

Director: Tom McCarthy

Cast: Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Brian d'Arcy James, John Slattery, Liev Schreiber and Stanley Tucci.

Run Time: 128 min.

US Release: 25 November 2015

UK Release: 29 January 2016

German Release: 25 February 2016

Spotlight is a biographical motion picture about the true story of how a group of investigative journalists, working for the Boston Globe, uncovered the scandal of child molestation by priests and the cover-up within Boston’s catholic society. This year keeps surprising me with early releases of fantastic movies and Spotlight sure is one of them, telling a disturbing true story in all its facets.

I was raised in a roman-catholic household and attended church while I was a young boy, but stopped going when I grew older because although I am a believer of god, I don’t believe in the church or any other institution that uses religion as means to gain power over individuals. So when this story went public that had a worldwide ripple effect, I was aware of the scandal surrounding priests and young children but I didn’t know that an American newspaper had uncovered the whole story. Watching this film gave me a deeper knowledge of a subject I had given it little attention to.

Spotlight has a very unusual way of telling the story of these reporters, by stepping back and letting the plot unfold naturally instead of using every cliché possible to create a fast-paced dramatic-thriller. It doesn’t glorifying the characters as either heroes or antagonists but portraits them as actual persons, as well as creating a realistic working and living environment around these journalists and the Boston society. The film doesn’t try to create big emotional breakout scenes from characters and that makes for a much bigger emotional punch when watching this biographic-drama.

The strongest aspect of Spotlight is that the plot unfolds as if watching a documentary, much like David Fincher’s movie Zodiac that revolves around the Zodiac killings. By laying-back and giving it a more grounded touch, the story manages to create a much bigger impact on the audience than if it would be filmed as a typical Hollywood blockbuster-thriller, with big dramatic scenes and possible mysteries threatening the Globe reporters.

Having studied journalism and knowing how the world inside a newsroom looks like, I was impressed how authentic this movie depicted the life of journalists (especially the hardcore investigative type). I also liked the conversation at dinner between the characters of Liev Schreiber and Michael Keaton, about how print journalism is changing; specifically on how readership of newspapers are decreasing in numbers due to the rise of the internet, and that is exactly what I was told when I began my studies in 2007.

Apart from the thrilling way this story is told, this movie has a stellar cast and everybody in it was on their A game by holding back on dramatic acting to make for a convincing portrayal of the actual persons that uncovered these disturbing events. All of these actors fully immersed into their characters and became them, such as Rachel McAdams and Brian d’Arcy who gave one the best performances of their careers.

Michael Keaton was incredible as Boston Globe’s Spotlight editor Walter “Robbie” Robinson. He emitted the pressure and the shock of working on this story not through dialogue or a dramatic emotional breakout, but through pure facial expression as a real person would do. Mark Ruffalo also gave a fantastic performance! Once the story grows and evidence piles up, his character gets so emotionally invested that it borders on obsession and the viewer gets to feel his urge to expose those paedophile priests.

Liev Schreiber, although just having a minor role as a side character, was crucial at giving this investigation its much-needed momentum. His lines, while subtle, where incredibly impactful once you let it sink in and while it was a very different role for him, he managed to master it gracefully. Stanley Tucci was great as his character (whose identity I won’t give away).

The cinematography for this movie was nothing out of the ordinary, but it also didn’t need to be. Director of photography Masanobu Takayanagi intentionally went for a more grounded and realistic look for this film, that stayed true to the story it told. The picture isn’t the bright and glossy type that creates different world, in the contrary! This movie is supposed to bring the viewer into the reality of those investigative journalists and Takayanagi succeeded in it perfectly.

Howard Shore composed the music for Spotlight and much like the storytelling and acting, it was an incredibly subtle but emotionally strong score that suited the atmosphere of the movie.


Verdict: Spotlight is a remarkably directed biographical drama with impeccable grounded performances by the whole cast, a riveting and disturbing story that affected the whole world and includes a quiet but strong soundtrack. This movie was disturbing due to the lies and cover-ups these journalists uncover, but it is jaw-droppingly good and I will buy it instantaneously on Blu-ray once it gets released. I will therefore give it a rating of 9.0 out of 10 and really recommend it to everyone who wants to see a good and suspenseful drama.

So what was your opinion of Spotlight? I know there have been quite a few comments from people on the Internet, who found this movie boring, do you agree with them or did you enjoy this reality-based drama? Leave a comment in the section below if you want to discuss it. Thank you for reading and if you liked this review, don’t forget to subscribe!

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