Wednesday, 30 December 2015


Journalism falls under Tom McCarthy's Spotlight and rises up out of it, glorified for the power it possesses to shine its own light on truth and justice. It's a noble pursuit and a noble film, stoic and sober though not without lightness nor without passion - it's keenly aware of itself and the role it seeks to play, and McCarthy and Josh Singer's script skillfully avoids over-stressing its point. They're a smart pair, since their point is made so succinctly and so successfully as a result, yet perhaps at the expense of gravity - Spotlight is an intentionally slight film, stylistically plain, emotionally reserved, dedicated to an acute verisimilitude throughout, but the narrow breadth of its purview hinders it somewhat. The film is about a specific set of journalists at a specific time, but as interesting as the story it tells of them, the story that they're striving to tell is that bit more interesting, and Spotlight doesn't adequately acknowledge this. But what is to be gained in criticising a film for what it is not? What Spotlight is is deeply involving, that aforementioned verisimilitude achieved by calculated yet keen dialogue, the bread and butter of McCarthy's trade. He forms his film around words, be they written or spoken, and possesses a terrific understanding of their precise power. He constructs his film as a journalistic endeavour in itself, deploying patience and objectivity in uncovering one devastating detail after another. He takes shortcuts in his direction for negligible gains and sacrifices the sense of realism otherwise finely calibrated in his mise-en-scene - no bother, these are fleeting failures, themselves of negligible worth. This is an intelligent film made by intelligent people, and a noble one indeed.