“Spotlight”: the 2010s answer to “All the President’s Men”

Michael Keaton headlines the best ensemble cast of the year so far

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(from left to right) Michael Keaton, Liev Schreiber, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, John Slattery, and Brian d’Arcy James star in “Spotlight”

It’s official: “The Revenant” is no longer the Oscar favorite to win Best Picture. Even though the film has not even been released, it is going to have be nearly perfect because “Spotlight” was incredible!

The film focuses on the spotlight staff members at the Boston Globe (played by Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, Mark Ruffalo, Brian d’Arcy James and John Slattery) who uncovered more than 90 cases of molestation by Catholic priests in the Boston area alone. Along for the ride is Mitchell Garabedian (played by Stanley Tucci), a hard working, no-nonsense lawyer with a heart of gold who helps the spotlight team in their investigation.

This is one of the absolute best uses of an ensemble cast I have ever seen, alongside “Pulp Fiction” and last year’s “Birdman,” which also starred Keaton.

Speaking of Keaton, he makes a strong push here for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar, seeing as how this is one of his top five best performances of his career. He may have been robbed of the gold last year, but this year might sing a different song. Keaton’s performance is relaxed and natural, which works perfectly in an ensemble piece such as this. While never overly intense, Keaton is able to give his character several layers through realistic humor and a good natured personality.

The real surprise here, though, is the performance by Rachel McAdams. Mainly starring in romantic films, McAdams is by far no slouch, however she has never shown this much range. Never. This is easily one of the strongest female performances I have seen in a long, long time. She was assertive, caring, intelligent, and determined, pulling all of it off in a realistic way. After seeing her here, I cannot wait to see what the future has in store for Ms. McAdams as it hopefully leads to more performances like this one.

I could praise the cast all day long, but these performances would be nothing if the writing was crap. The film is written by director Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer, and the script of theirs is truly something masterful. Between the two, they have written for the TV show “The West Wing” and the Academy Award-winning “Up,” however they also “The Fifth Estate” as well as “The Cobbler.” Thankfully, the writing here is not only better than “The FIfth Estate” and “The Cobbler,” but is also better than “Up” and “The West Wing,” and the later was created by Aaron Sorkin, who wrote “The Social Network” and “Moneyball.” The writing here is the kind of stuff that wins Oscars.

McCarthy also does a fantastic job in the director’s chair here, completely erasing “The Cobbler” from our minds. The direction is nothing short of brilliant with the tone, cuts, camera work, and music placement. He created entertaining film out of a subject matter that was taboo and evil. McCarthy’s directing style here reminds me of the styles of classic directors such as Steven Spielberg and Sidney Lumet, and those aren’t two names to be ashamed to be compared to. Honestly, this is better than some of the films the other two have done, and they are some of the greatest filmmakers of our time.

“Spotlight” sheds light on a strongly controversial topic and could have easily failed. Films like “World Trade Center,” “W.,” and “Stonewall” all covered controversial topics and failed significantly both with critics and at the box office. “Spotlight” treads the topic head on and tells the story like it was; they don’t sugar coat what happened. This is the kind of film that everyone should see because, when all of these pieces are together, it makes for one heck of a movie.

 

Grade: A

 

What appeals to filmgoers: fantastic acting, good filmmaking, great script and pace

What appeals to FHC students: historical context, big name actors, has a deep, moving moral

 

Director: Thomas McCarthy

 

Stars: Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, Mark Ruffalo, Stanley Tucci

 

Runtime: 2 hours and 8 minutes (128 min.)
MPAA Rating: R for some language including sexual references