Telluride Review: Spotlight (★★★★)

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It’s always a joy to write about a movie you love. Especially one you love instantly. I could feel just moments into the film that Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight was going to hit all the right notes with me.

Before the film began, we were introduced to McCarthy, Rachel McAdams, and birthday boy Michael Keaton. The crowd exploded into a rendition of “Happy Birthday” while the veteran actor did push-ups for us, increasing the level of excitement to fever-pitch.

Spotlight tells the story of the Boston Globe’s uncovering of the colossal scandal surrounding the Catholic Church’s cover-up of child molestation. Walter “Robby” Robinson (Keaton) is the editor of the Spotlight team, a small investigative unit within the Globe that slowly begins to uncover the horrific acts that took place in the Catholic Archdiocese of Massachusetts. Under the new leadership of Boston Globe Editor Marty Baron (played exceptionally well by the great Liev Schreiber), Keaton’s team is advised to focus their story away from the individual predators, and aim straight for the top of the ladder in order to show that it was a systematic issue within the Catholic Church, and not one or two rogue acts by desperate malefactors.

Spotlight is – without sounding overzealous or too caught up in the moment – a subtle and resplendent film, shot with great acuity and substance, is tightly paced, and overflows with the types of performances that make ensemble awards relevant and necessary. Ruffalo, for my money, wins best-in-show, and has the one true “Oscar Scene” in the film. He is fortunate to play the character most affected by what he is reporting, but he tackles the task with infallible rigor. Howard Shore’s score is noteworthy as well.

I am curious how the high-brow critics will respond to the film, but I can tell you the audience I saw it with was deeply stirred, the older man sitting next to me weeping thoroughly as the credits rolled to great applause. If Spotlight  fails to land a spot in this year’s Best Picture lineup it will be for one of two reasons: we’re in for a really, really great year, or the Academy will have dropped the ball in a major way.

Spotlight is the best film I’ve seen so far this year, and is one that I imagine I’ll be watching a few more times as the awards season unfolds. I really can’t laud the film enough.

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Lover of all things film and Oscar. Fantasy sports’ equivalent of George Steinbrenner. Your very own Han Solo, making friends all over the movie-loving galaxy in spite of himself. When he’s not ranking just about everything or dominating boardgames, Mark is breaking down the Oscar race 24/7 with Rain Man-like stats and knowledge. In his downtime, you can find him commiserating with other Northeast Ohio sports fans because a hero isn’t complete without a little heartbreak. If Lost, Homeland, Breaking Bad, Mad Men and Survivor are your style, then congratulations, you have something in common with this inglourious basterd.