‘Spotlight’ was no ‘Best Picture’ fluke

Alex Lasher

In the weeks leading up to the Oscars, “The Revenant” was talked about as many critics’ pick (this reviewer included) to win the coveted Oscar for Best Picture. However, in a bit of an upset, the investigative drama “Spotlight” took home the award.re-spotlight

“Spotlight” portrays the true story of the titular Boston Globe investigative journalist team and their uncovering of the Catholic Church’s secretive sex abuse scandals. Anyone who is even a little bit familiar with Boston knows the city houses a huge and devoted Catholic population. The church holds a lot of clout within the city.

Starting with little more than a trail of breadcrumbs, the Spotlight team was able to pull back layer after layer in the story to discover a scandal that rocked the city to its core. Not only were an alarming number of Catholic priests molesting children, but so many people seemed to know about it and sweep it under the rug (including police officers and members of the clergy).

As the Spotlight team dives deeper and deeper into this scandal, it brings up a central problem: When two of Boston’s biggest institutions face off, what will the ramifications be?

This film is not a nostalgic ode to old-school journalism; it doesn’t set out to paint reporting as a sexy or heroic profession. It’s simply a story showing how effective journalism can be when done right and the grit it takes to finish the job.

With a star studded cast, everyone in this film delivers. Michael Keaton continues his career renaissance after last year’s “Birdman” in a gripping turn as Walter Robinson, head of the Spotlight team. Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams deliver stellar performances as Michael Rezendes and Sacha Pfeiffer respectively, the top reporters investigating the story. Each received an Oscar nod for their performances. Most of the cast spent a lot of time with their real-life counterpart, learning their mannerisms and hearing their account of how things transpired, which aided greatly in making their performances authentic and true-to-life.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the film was that of Stanley Tucci’s role as a Boston lawyer. After some questionable roles and performances in recent memory, Tucci flashes the brilliance he once was known for in his role as a key source for the Spotlight team. Tucci is borderline-unrecognizable; I did not realize I’d been watching him until after the film when I was looking at the casting credits.

While there was no particularly “standout performance,” no star player, there didn’t need to be; each performance plays off the others to captivate a team effort, both in the broad storyline and in the smaller moments amongst characters in the film.

Director Tom McCarthy did a fantastic job of weaving a story and keeping the suspense tangible throughout. Although you go into the film knowing how it ends, the carefully-crafted portrayal still captures your attention.

Watching the way these journalists were able to uncover everything is the true focus of this film; that’s why other than the opening scene of the film, there are no flashbacks. We as the audience know the end results, but the journey to those results is what the movie portrays so incredibly well.

The only major complaint I have with the film is we did not get to see much in terms of the consequences of the article, at least not firsthand.

Before the movie’s credits roll, the viewer is given a little snippet about what happened to some of the clergy involved. It doesn’t tell us what happened to the journalists involved and the effect the story had on them.

In a movie that showed us so much intriguing behind-the-scenes stuff with those characters, it would have been nice to see some of the payoff after the final article landed on every subscriber’s front porch.

While I greatly enjoyed “The Revenant,” I have no misgivings about this movie taking Best Picture. Captivating from the opening scene, “Spotlight” is a film that will stick with you long after you leave your seat.