(Tom McCarthy, 2015)
Spotlight has a great real-life story as raw material. It also has an outstanding cast of character actors and movie stars all committing fearlessly to this treatment of that story. What it does not have is a writer-director with any real feel for cinema.
That's not to say there is nothing to recommend in Spotlight; it is an engrossing, beautifully-acted procedural, with plenty of finely-observed details that bring the story and world to life. It's screenplay has some nice moments and a few fine characters.
Previous true-life procedurals like All the Presidents Men and the Insider combined sharp scripts and great actors with bravura direction. It's just that I don't think McCarthy is capable of "bravura". He is fantastic with actors, and this film is really well paced, giving out just enough exposition to keep an audience interested but never enough to slow things down so much that they might become bored.
The story follows a specialist team of reporters at the Boston Globe as they investigate a story of the Catholic Church and it's decade-long cover-up of paedophile priests. Those reporters are played by the likes of Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams while Liev Schrieber appears as the new Editor of the Paper, an outsider and Jew, who pushes for the story to the displeasure of most of the city, it seems.
McCarthy shoots it all like it's television. From 1997. Flat, "realistic" lighting, dull blocking and compositions. The camera moves little, and never with any real sense of purpose, either thematic or aesthetic. It feels as if he has learned to direct from a book of How to Direct. Directing: a Fools Guide, perhaps?
It's a shame, because this could and should be an important film about a hugely controversial topic. Instead it is a mediocrity; never bad - its far too tasteful for that - but never great either.