Whenever I see that Quentin Tarantino will be blessing us with another film in a given year, I always pin him to at least be a contender for Best Screenplay awards across the various platforms from the Golden Globes to the Oscars. Luckily for those who are a fan of his wild and violent way of making films, his eighth entry “The Hateful Eight” will be coming out in the coming days. Despite Tarantino’s unrelentingly consistent talent at producing amazing screenplays, I just see his newest creation being able to surpass the brilliance that is the screenplay for “Spotlight”. The screenplay in this film is unrivaled to anything else I have seen this year, with dialogue so vivid and sharp that it dares you to pay closer attention and then ceases to release you from its grasp, once it has succeeded in reeling you in. Picking its words and conversation so carefully, you can clearly see the effort that went into making sure this script was crafted around an exact vision, one that wasn’t too forceful or preachy about the subject matter, yet one that was harsh and deep enough to mediate the gravity of the situation discussed throughout the film. It’s a serious topic that demands serious respect especially in terms of writing, and “Spotlight” knocks it out of the park.
Following the team of writers comprising the Spotlight section of the Boston Globe, this film centers around those individuals that were honored with a Pulitzer Prize for their work in uncovering the sexual abuse scandal of the Catholic Church in Boston during the 1970s and 80s. It’s a demanding story, one created in a fashion similar to “All the President’s Men,” that requires a strong cast in order to really make the story come to life in the eyes of the viewer. “All the President’s Men” benefitted from having the impeccable Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford as the leads, but “Spotlight” needed something different; it needed to have depth across the board, and they managed to cast the film perfectly. Michael Keaton (Birdman), Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher, Avengers), and Rachel McAdams (Midnight in Paris, Sherlock Holmes) lead the way for the Spotlight writing team, accompanied by John Slattery (Mad Men) and Liev Schreiber (Lee Daniels’ The Butler) as other authoritative support figures working within the Boston Globe. Throw in an unwavering supporting performance from Stanley Tucci (The Hunger Games) and you have an overall cast that is by far the best ensemble collection this year. What’s best about these actors’ performances is that each does a very solid job without one person stealing the show from the other actors. This allows the story to grow for each character and allow it to feel more real, allowing us to connect to the journalists as real people rather than if one of the actors turned in a performance far greater than the rest. The actors may not win any awards individually, but that is for the best of the film.
The list of things that are phenomenal about this movie goes on: the directing is absolutely remarkable, the character development is subtle yet effective, the score is supportive on multiple levels, and the characters aren’t made out to be heroes. One of the easiest slip ups for a movie such as this one is that it may begin to put its main characters on a pedestal and make them appear to be better than they are, or even worse, bigger than the story itself. No matter what, the story remains the centerpiece for the film, and the characters are expressed in their most human way possible, taking advantage of any flaws they may have in order to preserve that element of realism. Boston is a proud city with honorable people, and the movie captures the spirit of the Boston native so well, creating this culture and atmosphere completely unique to the location, similar in a way to “The Town.” This film is a celebration of the endearing struggle to do what is right and to create journalism that is not only honest and crisp, but that is beneficial to the community as a whole. No matter what your stance on the Catholic Church is, this film is an enjoyable and almost required viewing for all people. It doesn’t go out of its way to attack the Church; it recognizes that the Church itself is a system created by man, therefore inherently flawed, which only adds to the level of integrity of the filmmakers. Despite the possibility of failing at many different points, this film ultimately manages to portray its story and message to absolute perfection in this rightful front-runner for best picture of the year. It is my favorite movie of the year, and I can’t see “Joy,” “The Hateful Eight,” or “The Revenant” knocking it from its mantle. It does unbinding justice by the situation at hand, the writers, and the victims.
Spotlight (2015): 4/4 stars