Review: Spotlight (2015)

Rating: ★★★★½

  • Rotten Tomatoes: 96%
  • Metacritic: 93
  • IMDb: 8.1

It’s tough to watch a movie with subject matter so under-wraps and horrid with a critical mindset, but I’ve definitely sat through worse. Tom McCarthy (Up, Million Dollar Arm) comes to the table with his first Best Picture winner to date, and I have to say, he knocked it straight out of Fenway. Now, Spotlight isn’t without its flaws, but all in all it grabbed nothing but my undivided attention throughout. Excellent pacing was the first attribute that came to mind when I put this film’s artistic potential to the test and Tom McArdle and his crew get two thumbs up from me for the final editing. Honestly, many movies these days should take a lesson from this editing gold mine, especially with how difficult it must have been to pace such a drawn out, dialogue-heavy film.


As always, I have to touch on the cinematography for a few lines, since I pay more attention to that for the most part than any other critiqued element in film. Based on how much cinematographic savvy you can really display in a shot-for-shot drama, I thought Spotlight had an above average feel for unique camera angles. The aperture in some shots inside The Boston Globe was very welcomed and not overdone, while the following style we’ve seen Barry Jenkins exhibit was also used a handful of times. One of the most memorable camerawork moments for me, personally, was when the camera followed Matt Carroll down the street in the dark. The long shot seemed to pay homage to Tarantino’s signature long take, which of course was long, albeit refreshing.

Spotlight 2

I have to tell you, I was unaware that Howard Shore wrote this score until after I watched the film, which is usually so obvious. Shore usually has a tell in his composition, as do composers like Zimmer and Morricone, but the soundtrack seemed very basic to me. It definitely set the tone of the film as a concerning and tragic theme, but the seemingly lone piano seemed to get tedious with how often it was repeated. It was almost like listening to one of the “Bedtime” alarms on an iPhone. Seriously, if you have an iPhone, go to your clock app, click bedtime, listen to the different alarm settings and pop that first one: Early Riser may as well be written by Shore.


The other complaint I had with this otherwise incredible film was the clear lack of character development. This was odd to witness for a Best Picture winner but the wealth of nearly irrelevant characters was almost overwhelming. A name drop here and there would make you feel like you missed something, until you realize a few minutes later that the character doesn’t need to be remembered concerning the plot and the flow. Without giving anything away, there was a random trip to Florida that Mike Rezendes had to take that was never fully explained, or at least I don’t think it was. Now that may sound much too thin to be complaining about, but his absence was needed for an essential piece of the tangled puzzle to unravel. I even had to look up Matt’s name to write the recollection of that last scene I described and he was a part of the Spotlight team. In any case, it seems the character development was sacrificed for the pacing; while this isn’t ideal, it still got away with the Best Picture selection of the 88th Academy Awards.

My enjoyment of Spotlight may come from my growing interest in the legal field, but as a well-made drama it’s difficult to put it down for much else. It may have been a questionable winner amongst titans like Iñárritu’s The Revenant and McKay’s The Big Short, but that mysterious voting system must’ve just had its number. I truly hope Tom McCarthy has another drama in the works, but until then, I’m still waiting for Tarantino and Nolan to wow us again.

Drew – 6/21/17 ♘


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