I’ve been putting off writing this review for a while now. There are several reasons for this; the main one being that I’m pretty lazy and tend to push stuff like this to the back of my mind. But the reason I want to primarily focus on is how difficult it has been for me to figure out exactly what it is that I want to say about Spotlight. In a way, Spotlight is a film that we needed ten years ago; not now, in a time where it is common place for TV, movies, and comedians alike, to poke fun at the Catholic Church for its ongoing struggle with the issue of child molestation (hilarious, I know). I think, because of this, the film had little to no impact on me. I enjoyed watching it though, because it is a well made film.
Spotlight is like a friend I had in high school, who I will refer to as Steve. There would be seven or eight of us in a room, just hanging out, having a good time, maybe having a few drinks as well. We would most likely be watching something on the TV: be it a movie, TV-show, or video game. We would converse about happenings in our lives, news, politics, philosophical things, etc (being the smartest person in the world even in high school, naturally, I would only hang out with peers who could hold a conversations on these subjects). You know that moment in a conversation when everyone seems like they are satisfied with everything that has been said and everyone stops talking for a bit? Well, that’s where Steve never failed to chime in, “Hey, you guys remember that one time so-and-so happened?” Mind you, Steve wasn’t dumb or awkward, he just had a knack for bringing up things that in no way related to the previous conversation.
With that in mind, let’s jump into my review of Steve…. err, I mean, Spotlight.
DOCUMENTS! WRITING! JOURNALISM! EXCITEMENT!!!!!!
As I said earlier, Spotlight is a film that needed to be made. The story is tragic, and I am still amazed that such things happen in America to this day. Moreover, as someone who considers themselves religious, I am constantly appalled that crimes such as these consistently come from leaders who claim to believe in the same things that I do. But I’m not here to discuss these kind of things as if I were back in that room in high school with Steve and the rest of our friends.
The lower score is due to something I hinted at in my previous review on Bridge of Spies. This film is a historical film, and it does indeed suffer from a lack of excitement. There are a few instances where the writers tried to implement elements of the story that gave it an illusion of excitement, but ultimately fail since they are trying to stick as close as possible to what actually happened. [Possible Spoilers Ahead] The two instances that stick out in my mind are a bullshit deadline that doesn’t really make much sense, and the absurd amount of hints of someone on the inside trying to sabotage the magazine [End Spoilers]. This is a story about investigative journalism, it is slow, and consists of absolutely no action or suspense. I realize that this isn’t a problem for some of movie-goers, but I believe a story’s main source of excitement comes from CONFLICT between characters. The only source of real conflict in the film comes from the church trying to cover up their crimes, which they’re apparently very bad at.
Look at the cast for this movie. Even if it were filled to the brim with SyFy Original Movie levels of acting, I would receive an avalanche of hate mail and slam-tweets for daring to question the talents of people like Mark Ruffalo and Micheal Keaton. There are two reasons I took off points. One is, for the life of me, the fact that I can’t even begin to remember anyone’s name. The other is Ruffalo’s character’s overreaction to the story being delayed. However, it is worth noting that I was the only one in the room who thought his dramatic temper-tantrum was absolutely hilarious because of it’s spontaneity, so maybe there’s a good chance you’ll understand it more than I did.
Much like Bridge of Spies, this film is well shot and directed for much of the movie. However, it takes place primarily indoors, and the cinematography was not focus for the making of this film. While it looks great, there is nothing special about it.
The score mostly consists of Howard Shore (the genius who did the Lord of the Rings movies, don’t even try to pretend the music wasn’t perfect in those) on his piano. What else do you really need for a film like this? The music is soft and flowing, providing perfect background noise for this story. Shore proves once again that he is one of today’s best.
X-Factor: 3/10, Not Enough Altar Boys
The biggest problem I have with this film is similar to the one I have with Steve. This film is not really relevant to our present time, and to do it through the stories of investigative journalists? I’m sorry, but I’m just not that interested. I would much rather read their article than read a book about how they wrote the article.
What this story needed was a way to put the audience in the shoes of the families and victims, something that would make audiences remember that this story actually happened and have the message stick with them for years. This story needed to be told through the eyes of a victim. It needed to be suspenseful, eerie, and possibly even disturbing. Nothing would resonate better with audiences better than watching a family that is stuck in one of these terrible situations, especially when it could have very well been one of their own children involved.
After that review, I feel the need to reiterate something I said in my opening statements. This is a good movie. Was I gripping my chair in anticipation while I watched it? No. Was I invested in the character’s stories and personal lives? Not at all. Was it still overall a decent story that was thought-provoking? Definitely. Watching this film was almost like watching a documentary, and there can be some pretty damn good documentaries.
Again, I feel it’s necessary to ask the question everyone has on their minds: can it win Best Picture? Honestly, I feel that this film has even less a chance to beat The Revenant than Bridge of Spies did. The only way this film is winning is if there was a sudden and overwhelming anti-church attitude from the Academy during voting. I also wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest if this film gets snubbed in all 6 of its categories (Best Picture, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Directing, Editing, and Original Screenplay). The only award I would feel confident in betting money on is Best Original Screenplay, but I would be very conflicted about it, as it is probably my least favorite film in that category.