Spotlight Movie Review – Why Thoth Thinks It’s 2016’s Best Movie
(It’s a real drag how your review has to include a plot-description, when the word-count is your eternal enemy)
… Spotlight! Movie about the famous exposé on the Church’s cover-up of child-molesting Catholic priests, by the Boston Globe’s investigative-journalist team – ‘Spotlight’.
(Yes, I could have said that better. Who cares! Lets talk about the movie!)
Is this an Anti-Catholic Priest-Bashing Movie?
(I’d say – No & Yes)
Spotlight answers this question as the movie plays out, I’m thinking, by denying that its exposition is just about large number of child-molesting priests being discovered. Rather it focuses “on the institution, not the individual priests”, it unveils how “the church manipulated the system so that these guys wouldn’t have to face charges” and it “put those same priests back into parishes time and time again”, it shows – “this was systemic, that it came from the top, down”
I’m thinking, you can counter-question that, by asking – “But don’t schools cover-up similar cases involving teachers and aren’t molestations in the family conveniently swept under the rug, to save face?” And, I’m thinking, the few times Spotlight allows its stoic script and almost dispassionate story-telling style, to raise its emotional tonality – is when it’s answering THAT question (as one of its hair-raising dialogues states) –
“They say it’s just physical abuse but it’s more than that, this was spiritual abuse. You know why I went along with everything? Because priests are supposed to be the good guys”
(The simple honesty of this dialogue which suggests why we may feel a deeper sense of outrage against religious crimes, moved me)
Why do I think it deserves the Oscar for Best Movie?
Most importantly, I’m thinking, it’s because this movie is probably one of the best of those rare true-story movies, that are actually true to the story. I’m thinking, I can’t really put it better than Rotten Tomatoes’ critical consensus, which reads, “Spotlight gracefully handles the lurid details of its fact-based story while resisting the temptation to lionize its heroes, resulting in a drama that honors the audience as well as its real-life subjects.”
(Yes, I just respectfully quoted Rotten Tomatoes…it’s a love-hate thing for crying out loud!)
Before watching the movie, I’m thinking, I actually expected it to be a scandal-baring, thrilling, all-exalting – glorified version of a true story. After watching Spotlight, I’m thinking, I feel like a blasphemer for even thinking this movie is in the same ballpark, as those other sell-out movies based on true stories. I’m thinking, all real movie-lovers Wikipedia/Google – fact-check, after watching a movie, especially if it’s based on a true story. And, I’m thinking, the value of the movie drops with each thing that you learn – didn’t actually happen. In the case of Spotlight, I’m thinking, your post-movie research will have you appreciating not just the movie, but the real story it’s based on
(By the way, if you actually fact-check after watching movies, this website is a must-go-to – http://www.historyvshollywood.com/)
IT KEEPS IT REAL!
The movie sticks closely to being all about the actual investigation, from the perspective of each member of the Spotlight-team. It is calculatedly interspersed with just a few well-scripted scenes, dedicated to subtly portray the emotional effects the case’s progress has on its investigators. These moments in the film also voice (through well-written and relatable dialogue) – questions, fears and outrage you’re likely to be bursting with as the audience/silent-spectators.
I’m thinking, It is this that has me agreeing with Boston Globe’s (the newspaper this movie is based on) review, which says – “Spotlight doesn’t turn journalists into heroes, It just lets them do their jobs, as tedious and critical as those are, with a realism that grips an audience almost in spite of itself”.
So, what is SPOTLIGHT’s formula for being so spot-on?
Urrr… Let’s see… I’m thinking, maybe, perhaps… THEY ACTUALLY GAVE A SHIT ABOUT THE REAL STORY! In other words, the movie-makers and the actors of this movie have thoroughly researched, communicated and worked closely with the Pulitzer Prize winning journalists, whom they’ve played in this movie.
(Isn’t it ironic how the obvious course is oft the least tread path?)
And, I’m thinking, this brings me to a personal movie-reviewing rule that this movie made me break.
Rule of Thoth #13 (now broken) – Thoth Never Talks About the Cast
I’m thinking, I’ll go out on a limb (like dead monk Sarcophagus can’t) and say this movie worked because of its actors. Every actor felt like they were actually embodying and introducing the distinctive personalities of the Spotlight journalists. You’ll instantly recognize Mark Ruffalo as playing someone he’s never played before – facial expressions, body-stance, talking style. Rachel Mc’Adams successfully plays the calm, serious, hard-working woman on the Spotlight Team. Michael Keaton so successfully embodied his character, Walter V. Robinson (the guy he plays) said – “It’s like watching yourself in a mirror, yet having no control of the mirror image”.
But for me, I’m thinking, two performances really stood out. One was Liev Schreiber’s portraying the newspaper editor Marty Baron – as he plays a soft-spoken, intimidating (without being authoritative), almost shy and awkward (yet effective) sort of leader. It was a unique performance that just got me every time he was on screen. The second performance that really stood out for me was by Brian d’Arcy James, who plays Matt Carroll (one of the Spotlight journalists). I’ve never seen or heard of this actor before, but I’m thinking it’s truly impressive how he manages to stick out among such a stellar cast of veteran actors. He successfully plays a straight-faced stoic that manages to communicate his character’s emotional struggle, with bare minimum expressions.
Thoth’s Thoughts –
I’m thinking, the movie left me pondering deeply on the why’s and how’s of the corruption that authority exerts on us human beings, especially since we see ourselves as the authoritarians of this earth. And how is it that we allow ourselves to accept so much evil? When we are the best to see, hear, feel and then understand it for what it is. Michael Keaton’s confounded, despair filled and yet sadly honest voice, from the movie, just saying – “I don’t know” – lingered as a resonating response.
As a movie about investigative journalism – I’m thinking, it left me fully convinced that honest, thorough, unbiased yet truly empathetic journalists have the power to overturn social evils. After all, I’m thinking – deep down inside – it is to them, that we as societies look to, for the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth – so help us God…
(Should it end there?)
…And it is when their important stories are forgotten, we’ll look to the movies to bring them back into the Spotlight.