Spotlight Film Review

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Spotlight is one of the most contentious films for me at 2016’s Academy Awards. It has received a lot of critical acclaim and it took a couple of major Oscars home. Despite all of this, I found little to be impressed by in the film.

Spotlight is based on the true story of a Boston newspaper which uncovered a large scandal of child molestation and cover-ups within the local Catholic Archdiocese. It’s a grounded film in order to stay true to the reality of the situation. It feels very authentic to how the events actually occurred. That is perhaps the greatest positive for the film. It’s a respectable analysis of the work of a journalist and the structure of their investigations.


The story centres around The Boston Globe newspaper

The film expertly shows how proceedings can take time, and how much evidence must be gathered before claims go public. It’s a fascinating look at the journalism industry and how patient you must sometimes be on a story so big. A story is as big as you make it. They could have stopped their investigation early on to expose a couple of priests, but their instincts allowed them to take it as far as it could have gone.

Therefore, the film is dominated by its performances, so they had to be Glengarry Glen Ross levels of quality. Unfortunately, the characters felt a bit one-note and arcs were near enough nowhere to be seen. The acting is fine but no-one really stands out. No one feels emotionally charged enough and the Oscar nominations for Supporting Actor & Actress hardly feel called for. A film like Zodiac can skate by in these departments because it’s so stylistic and directed incredibly well, but this film just didn’t have those qualities, in my opinion.


Keaton plays journalist Walter “Robby” Robinson part of the team that uncovers abuse in the Catholic church in Boston

The film won the Oscars for Best Original Screenplay and Best Picture. Firstly, I’m against true story films being up for Original screenplay because the film is based on a real event and the film was constructed with facts and accounts by those whom the film is based on. Plus, the Oscar feels underserved because of how safe and ineffective it was. It doesn’t do anything unique or interesting. The Best Picture Oscar also feels undeserved. I believe it was only awarded this because it tackles a taboo subject and because it only won one other Oscar. It feels like a cop-out that it took away Best Picture when it was far from being that.

I’m always largely against true life dramas because they usually feel like they’re baiting for awards. You only have to look at this year’s candidates to spot the trend (see: Trumbo, Steve Jobs, The Danish Girl, and the overlooked Concussion). This film unfortunately falls into that trap and does very little to spice up the reality like The Big Short did. There are very few interesting aspects here to bring the story to life. It wasn’t taut enough to be effective and it wasn’t interesting enough to break the mould. Spotlight is a safe Oscar winner which has seemingly impressed the masses, but I stand underwhelmed.

3/5 stars

Luke Compton – 

YJA Senior Film Correspondance