It seems to be on its way to being the preordained Best Picture Oscar frontrunner, so I’m not too happy about that. It is a darn good movie, but I’ve seen better from 2015. However, it’s got that unmistakable stench of importance on it, and Oscar eats that stuff up. I’m not ready to say it’s going to emerge victorious yet, but its odds are looking better after grabbing the National Society of Film Critics Award earlier this week. Of course, they haven’t picked the eventual Academy champion since 2009, so it’s hardly a done deal. But you could do much worse in 2016, then recalling the 1976 journalism classic “All the President’s Men”. Then again, that movie lost the statue to “Rocky”, so it’s still just guesswork as to the fate of “Spotlight”. But, again–at least it’s pretty damn good. It’s very good–but it’s certainly safe in its subject matter. How can you possibly argue for the other side?
After a brief 1970’s prologue, we shift quickly to the offices of The Boston Globe newspaper in 2001. New editor Marty Baron (a perfect Liev Schreiber) is made aware of the specialized “Spotlight” team of investigative reporters–a group that can take up to a year to finally publish a painstakingly put-together story. The team includes Walter “Robby” Robinson (a commanding Michael Keaton), Sacha Pfeiffer (an increasingly effective Rachel McAdams), and Michael Rezendes (an absolutely smashing Mark Ruffalo, in what is easily his best performance amongst a trio of 2015 releases). When the investigative eye turns to the burgeoning Catholic Church scandal, and the protection of clergy from prosecution for the sexual abuse of children–not even the tragedy of 9/11 can stop the juggernaut of the Spotlight expose’. And soon after the identification of one pedophile priest, the numbers increase exponentially.
Director Tom McCarthy keeps things amazingly taut and clutter-free, plus he co-wrote the dynamic screenplay. The excellence of this cast is deep. Stanley Tucci is incredible in his role of attorney Mitchell Garabedian. And Len Cariou is pitch-perfect slippery as Cardinal Bernard Law. Oh, maybe the film’s not passionate enough. Or maybe it’s not trying to be is more fair. But it’s also possible that the procedural aspects go a bit too long. It’s always a great film when focusing on Mr. Ruffalo though. His chameleon transformations are something to admire from role-to-role. He maybe should’ve won an Oscar last year for “Foxcatcher”. Plus, he’s also the freaking Hulk. Incredible range and always fascinating to watch. It’s a noble picture, and a fine one. If it’s not a truly great one, it reaches for it ably. It even mostly succeeds.
next review up: “Sicario”