Saturday 30 January 2016

Review: Spotlight

World of Blackout Film Review

Spotlight Poster

Cert: 15 / 129 mins / Dir. Thomas McCarthy / Trailer
WoB Rating: 5/7

Sure, a true-story drama about the institutionalised cover-up of repeated and sustained child abuse was never going to be an easy watch, but having already sat through Ride Along 2 this week, I already knew which of the two was likely to be the more harrowing*1.

Spotlight is the story of a quartet of journalists at the Boston Globe newspaper in 2001, who uncovered systematic historical abuse complicity in the Catholic church. The subject is something that the cynical may almost take for granted now, but this is the point where it went from being rumour and conjecture to verifiable criminal activity. And yet curiously, the film is nowhere near as bleak as that sounds.

For such a sensitive subject, Spotlight is a surprisingly measured take, perhaps too much at times. The film is never mawkish or hand-wringing, but at the same time it also foregoes the righteous outrage you'd expect to fill the narrative gaps. In fact, it's not unfair to say (even if it sounds like an insult) that it's basically a made-for-TV afternoon drama movie which happens to have an A-list cast.

The extended timespan which the film covers also means there's a fair bit of skipping-over going on here, and as a result the team's painstaking investigation often appears to rely more on luck and assumption than on judgement and consideration. Although to be fair, the 'gut instinct' is probably just the difference between investigative journalism and a criminal investigation, and the film is certainly more about bureaucracy than it is conspiracy-theories; a slant which works both for and against it. But at its heart, Spotlight is a well-constructed film full of fantastic performances at every level. And the title-cards which close out the movie will chill you more than anything you've just watched.

And let's just take a moment to recognise that this collection of real-life superheroes fought crime and injustice with the aid of spreadsheets. Okay, I didn't see much in the way of rigorous data-analysis going on, never mind VBA routines or even conditional formatting, but they're on the right page. Or worksheet, if you prefer.

Although I still think that my version of the poster would have attracted a larger audience…

Spotlight Poster*2

So, watch this if you enjoyed?
Kill The Messenger or The Program.

Should you watch this in a cinema, though?
Well, it's not essential to the story, no.

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
Oh, undoubtedly.

Is this the best work of the cast or director?
Probably not quite, unfortunately.

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?

Yes, but is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
There isn't. It's really not that sort of film, y'know?

Yes, but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 2: That Michael Keaton starred in 1989's Batman as did Billy Dee 'Calrissian' Williams, William 'Porkins' Hootkins and Mac 'Rebel Pilot' McDonald.

Honestly, though. Who plays an un-named pilot in a Star Wars film? Everyone in those movies has a name, even if a lot of them are now 'Legends'.
How come Mac doesn't (seem to) have one, hmm?

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 Yeah, I opened with a joke. Let me have that, at least. Although I'll be closing with one, too…

*2 And yeah, before you mention it, I did take Rachel McAdams out of the poster and replace her with Billy Crudup, yes. And I assure you it's purely because she hasn't been in any superhero flicks I could use the character from, but Crudup has. She's appearing in Marvel's Doctor Strange later this year, but there are no pics of her in that yet. So, to be clear, it wasn't sexism, it was practicality. That's all. Wow, you lot are sensitive…

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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