Films & TV

DIFF 2015: Spotlight Review


Sreejith Menon Films & TV ,,,,,

Written byJosh Singer, Tom McCarthy.

Directed byTom McCarthy

StarringMark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, John Slattery, Liev Schreiber, Stanley Tucci.

Run Time: 128 Minutes.

Check out our Spotlight Review!


The true story of the ‘Spotlight’ team from the Boston Globe that uncovered truths about child molestation and deep levels of corruption within the Catholic Church.


’We got two stories here: a story about degenerate clergy, and a story about a bunch of lawyers turning child abuse into a cottage industry. Which story do you want us to write? Because we’re writing one of them.’’                                                                 – Walter Robinson

And write they did. The above quote summarizes the Pulitzer Prize winning investigative journalist group called ‘Spotlight’ of the Boston Globe. They are a group of four who work in confidentiality and uncover some of the darkest truths about the world around them. The opening introduces us to the premise of the movie – it’s 1976 in a Boston police station, where a priest and child are being questioned individually. Cut to 2001, and we are already deep into the plot. We meet Walter ‘’Robby’’ Robinson (Michael Keaton), the head of the Spotlight team bidding farewell to an old colleague. Along with Ben Bradlee Jr. (John Slattery), they welcome the new Editor Marty Baron (Liev Schrieber). Marty, fresh from his last stint at The Miami Herald, is bewildered by the lack of zeal in a case that linked the Catholic church to child abuse. He assigns ‘Spotlight’ to the case.

Mike Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), a congenial & mischievous presence, takes the responsibility of meeting with Mitch Garabedian (Stanley Tucci) – the lawyer who took 84 plaintiffs with him to the battle against the church. Rather painstakingly, he convinces Mitch to help him out. Meanwhile Sasha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams) conducts her own interviews with victims who give her detailed accounts of what really transpired & Matt Carroll (Brian d’Arcy James) crunches the numbers. Gradually and excruciatingly, the team comes to the realization that the number of parish priests involved with child abuse is alarmingly high, and the whole affair is shoved under a giant Catholic rug. Determined to expose the notorious priests, the team assembles enough proof but Mitch Baron does not think that it is enough damage. He is resolved to challenging the system. What ensues is a classic tale of unrelenting investigative journalism, which is ironically a rarity in today’s world filled with ‘freedom of speech’.


In Spotlight, we have a procedural that tackles the religious sentiments of people in the most sensational way possible. To say it’s purely an investigation story would be missing the point. One is made to connect with the characters, and feel the pain of the victims as well. All this has been carried out by actor turned director Tom McCarthy (The Station Agent, The Cobbler) in a manner archaic to the world of cinema today. The storytelling is clear-cut without any redundant aspects in the plot. Along with Josh Singer, he has done justice to the real life Spotlight team.

Howard Shore didn’t have a mammoth task with the music but manages to hit the right notes. The cinematography by Masanobu Takayanagi gives us a solid foundation of the early 21st century Boston, and fabulous work by Tom McArdle with the editing, especially the 9/11 timeline. The entire team has managed to create a ‘everything out of nothing’ newsroom drama without the script containing any groundbreaking material.

The cast of Spotlight. Image courtesy of The Hollywood Reporter
The cast of Spotlight. Image courtesy of The Hollywood Reporter


A sizeable amount of people will turn up for this film solely based on the ensemble cast. And this cast is definitely an embarrassment of riches. Almost every character hits you right in the face, especially those of Michael Keaton (Birdman, Batman) & Stanley Tucci (The Hunger Games, Transformers). The former had an academy award in the form of Birdman last year, and is possibly facing the prospect of another nomination this year, whereas the Tucci rises to his role of Mitch Garabedian – the lawyer who fought hard for all the victims.

Mark Ruffalo (The Avengers, Now You See Me) gave a stellar performance throughout, with the exception of two scenes. Since his was a character which could have been played by a number of actors, a lot was expected of him to justify the choice. He does not disappoint. Rachel McAdams (Sherlock Holmes, Midnight In Paris) has had a busy & successful year and this final release of hers for 2015 shows us why. The surprise element in the cast is Liev Schrieber (X-men, Salt). Fans of Liev will be amazed at his composed display of editor Baron. The charming John Slattery (Mad Men, Iron Man) adds a concrete presence to the mix as Ben Bradlee Jr. One who deserves a lot of praise for a neat exhibit is Brian d’Arcy James (Game Change, Ghost Town). One can only hope he doesn’t get shoved off as the unsung hero of the film.


Spotlight gives us an investigative story in an unconventional manner – mainly because this time it is from a newsroom as opposed to the nauseating number of cop legends we’ve seen off late. It is direct, balanced and gives audiences the naked truth on matters which might be hard for many to swallow. The strength of the performances will leave you with a strong impact. As the awards season nears, we can only hope that this one features a lot in the spotlight.

Watch it if you’re: In the mood for a crime drama or just for the excellent cast.

B-Change Rating: 9.1/10