The Best Picture winner at this year's Oscars, Spotlight pretty much set the tone for that particular awards ceremony as it talks about a serious issue as earnestly as possible.
The film follows a group of Boston Globe investigative journalists as they try to shed some light on systemic sexual abuse at the hands of Catholic priests in the early 2000's. Based on a true story, the main goal of Spotlight seems to be to celebrate the hard work and determination of these reporters while reminding the world how easily that kind of recurring problem can be covered up. With a solid cast that includes Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Liev Schreiber, Rachel MacAdams and Stanley Tucci, the film is well made and the performances are all very strong so it's easy to see why it did so well at the Oscars. Another great thing about it is it doesn't glorify its characters too much as most of them are flawed in some way and sometimes even get in the way of the investigation.
Unlike Zodiac or even Foxcatcher, Spotlight goes for realism to the point where there's very little visually to hang onto, if anything. The film wants the viewer to feel like a fly on the wall during those investigations and it achieves that rather well: the victims' testimonies resonate and the reporters' frustrations are felt. You want to see them dig up the truth and expose the guilty parties. All that said, this is really the kind of film that works much better as a documentary. As good as the actors may be, they remain actors so you can only identify with them so much while, in a documentary, you see the real people and hear the facts coming from them so they instantly hold more weight. Cinematically, Spotlight is too bland to really stand out which is why Zodiac still feels like the better, more impactful film even if the former's cause is far more important.
The story of Spotlight is one that definitely needed to be told and those involved in the telling of these true events did a terrific job. You just wish they had found a more powerful way of telling it through film. As it stands, this is worth a watch but I would suggest reading up on the work of these reporters instead as you'll probably get more out of that.
Valid but overrated.