I’m really not sure what you’re supposed to refer to Tom McCarthy as: Writer? Director? Actor? Hollywood’s messiah? A very naughty boy?
Ok, I may have gone off on a tangent slightly. What I’m trying to say is that this guy is prolific and prodigiously talented. This is a bloke that’s acted in The Wire, written an unaired pilot for Game of Thrones, wrote Up for Pixar, and has now written and directed Spotlight. (Plus a load of other stuff. Diverse doesn’t really cover it.)
For Spotlight he’s assembled a mighty ensemble of actors who play a special investigative ‘spotlight’ newsroom team at the Boston Globe that start to look into cases of priests sexually abusing children and uncover systemic abuse throughout the church on a global scale. And it’s a true story. Oscars, are you shined, dusted down and at the ready?
That may sound cynical but, unless he messes it up, it’s a bit of a slam dunk. Worthy tale, excellent cast, bang on awards season etc. That said, he’s still got to tell a story which, let’s face it, involves journalists sifting through archives of paper and attempting to interview hostile locals who don’t want to talk. But he makes it work.
The story zips along with ease and the cast all seem to be on their A-game bouncing off each other. Those that take most plaudits are the three key players in the spotlight team: boss (Michael Keaton) and his two lieutenants (Rachel McAdams and Mark Ruffalo), with honourable mentions going to lawyer with a conscious (Stanley Tucci) and editor with steely conviction (Liev Schrieber); for both quietly stealing their respective scenes.
And McCarthy, to his credit, just lets his cast get on with it and tell the story. He’s not showy or clever but just lets the tale play out and keeps the pace up, giving the audience credit saying, ‘You’re intelligent moviegoers, you’ll keep up.’
Initially I didn’t get into the groove but after 20 minutes I was hooked and right there with the spotlight team, willing them to tie all their evidence together and bring the whole corrupt system down (It’s not hard to think all priests and dodgy as hell, although I’m sure many aren’t). And the whole experience was made all the more compelling by the fact it’s not only a true tale, but a recent one.
So in case I wasn’t clear, don’t go into this thinking it’ll be full of action and grandstanding. It’s all character and subtlety, this one. You’ll get maybe one scene with a raised voice and one where a guy runs for a photocopier. Other than that, you’ll need your thinking caps on and to be paying attention. But that’s no bad thing, no bad thing indeed.