What is the difference between an important film and a great film? That is a question I don’t ask myself enough to be honest. However, it is one that instantly came to mind upon seeing Spotlight, the film about the Roman Catholic Church sexual abuse scandal in Boston. Parts of Spotlight are extremely well made and the film brings to light an important topic in an enlightening matter. However, I find myself having trouble calling Spotlight a great film. There is just something about it that prevents me from calling it so.
Spotlight follows the Boston Globe’s Spotlight team as they are pushed by new editor Marty Baron (portrayed by Live Schreiber) to investigate the rumors of sex abuse by priests in Boston. As the team gets into the thick of the investigation they begin to realize they have stumbled into something much bigger than anyone could have imagined.
The Catholic Church has always been an entity considered to be untouchable. The reporters at the Boston Globe proved this wrong, and this film once again does so. It is very commendable how completely Tom McCarthy (who directed and co-wrote the film with Josh Singer) goes after the Church during the course of this film. While at first seeming like a friendly, by the points depiction of what happened, McCarthy takes this film on a darker and darker course as the film goes along all the way to the final moments before the credits roll. As important as the work McCarthy does with this film is, he brings one major weakness. Everything about the film feels so cold. The characters of the film all have drives but that’s about it. There is nothing friendly about this film and it can feel quite mechanical at times.
While the characters are hard to become invested in, this truly is a great performance by an ensemble. There is no standout performance rather all the performances in the film complement each other. Whether its Michael Keaton’s veteran presence as team leader, Mark Ruffalo’s manic energy as the lead reporter, Rachel McAdams’ calming presence as one of the Spotlight team reporters or even the unpredictability of Stanley Tucci’s performance as a lawyer who the Spotlight team must work with.
There is a lot to like and even more to admire in Spotlight but despite all of its noble and noteworthy intentions, it’s a cold and mechanical film that is difficult to fall in love with.