Spotlight, film review: ‘Subtle and very cunning’

09:24 29 January 2016

Rachel McAdams in Spotlight. Picture: Seacia Pavao

Rachel McAdams in Spotlight. Picture: Seacia Pavao

Archant

The best performances are the subtlest in this true newspaper story about exposing Catholic Church corruption, says Michael Joyce.

Director: Tom McCarthy
Starring: Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery and Stanley Tucci
Film Length: 128 mins

Hollywood movies are all about the bright side, so although this is about how the Roman Catholic Church systematically covered up paedophile priests, the main thrust of the film is to celebrate the spirit of investigative journalism that exposed it. Spotlight is a newspaper movie, which is one of the rarest genres there is; these days the idea of investigative journalists with unimpeachable integrity hunting down stories and being encouraged to expose the corrupt and the powerful seems too much of a fantasy even for Hollywood.

The film feels as though it has been made to rigorous journalistic standards. Unlike most Based on a True Story films, most of this does seem believable. McCarthy keeps everything low key; there’s an almost hushed air to it. The script rattles off names and legalese, trying to do the minimum of spoon feeding and trusting you to keep up. It also slips in a very subtle, and very cunning, bit of misdirection with the plot.

This is quite a comeback for McCarthy, an actor whose directorial career got off to a flying start with The Station Agent and The Visitor but had lost its way: his last film was an Adam Sandler comedy that didn’t even get into cinemas. He is known as an actors’ directors, drawing out career-defining performances from Richard Jenkins and Peter Dinklage.

Here he has the best cast he’s ever had, one of the best casts of any film this year. But journalist roles can be tough on actors. All they get to do is answer phones/ take notes/ read/ file/ walk down corridors or across news rooms/ drink coffee. The best performances are the ones that accept the limitations. Liev Schreiber, as the new editor who encourages the team to pursue the story, is largely inert but he is probably the best thing in the film. As the most passionate of the Spotlight team Ruffalo seems to spend the whole film with his head cocked to one side and his face mushed up in a Popeye grimace. He wants to give us his performance but it isn’t needed. Just stick to the facts.

Rating: 4/5 stars

For longer reviews and a look at Michael Bay’s 13 Hours and Robert De Niro in Dirty Grandpa, visit halfmanhalfcritic.weebly.com

Latest Hampstead & Highgate Stories

6 minutes ago
Left to right: Camden Swiss Cottage's Ally Dill, Amir Castronovo, Lauren Brantley, Alexis Lambropoulos, Marliese Rittenhouse, Brandon Biss, Ella McEver, Lyelle Kahaner, Alexander Chen and Clementine Butler Brown

A contingent of Camden Swiss Cottage’s youngsters faced their biggest challenge of the season so far at the London Regional Age Group Championships, held over two weekends at Crystal Palace.

Yesterday, 18:54
The Old White Bear pub in Hampstead

Developers who own the derelict Old White Bear pub in Hampstead have been ordered to take down scaffolding at the historic building by the end of the week or face enforcement action by Camden Council.

Yesterday, 19:00
Harriet Dart

West Hampstead’s Harriet Dart won her first $25,000 doubles title on Saturday.

Yesterday, 17:00
at Metro

The pub up the road from Harrods is selling a guest beer called Purple Reign.

Yesterday, 16:52
Beth Potter (right) is pursued by her British rivals Kate Avery and Jessica Andrews (second from left), who eventually won the race on the Parliament Hill athletics track. Pic: Mark Shearman

Former world record-holder Dave Bedford says Highgate Harriers’ Night of the 10,000m PBs is a “fascinating event” which is “of great value” to the world of athletics.

Yesterday, 16:38
Bespoke furniture packages are available. Photographs by David Butler

Everyone knows that Kentish Town is now a bit posh but luxury development still doesn’t spring to mind when picturing the area.

Yesterday, 15:00
the arches

Maria tries out The Arches, a quirky and buzzy local restaurant in South Hampstead, with decor as eclectic as the clientele and is inspired by a smoked duck Caesar salad to recreate the delicious dressing.

Yesterday, 14:04
Get down(ward dog) with the Hampstead and Highgate kids

In Finland they hand new parents a box full of essentials for their new arrival. We reimagine the tradition for north London children. Here is our pick of the necessities for a Hampstead or Highgate childhood.

Most read Hampstead & Highgate etcetera

HOT JOBS

Show Job Lists

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Hampstead & Highgate Express
e-edition today

Subscribe