Spotlight – Tom McCarthy

Spotlight starring Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, and Rachel McAdams. Photo Credit: Kerry Hayes

Spotlight starring Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, and Rachel McAdams.
Photo Credit: Kerry Hayes

At this point most if us know the sex abuse stories, about priests taking advantage of young, scared, impressionable children. It’s both disgusting and shocking and not really something we want to think about. Spotlight puts you at the front of the initial investigation by The Boston Globe that brought the news of this terrible cover-up by the Catholic Church to light in the early 2000’s. The investigative team for the Globe, called “Spotlight” earned the paper a Pulitzer Prize for Public Service in  2003. One can only imagine how disturbing this information would have been to come across, especially knowing that the evidence and accusations against the Catholic Church had been around for decades. Spotlight introduces you to the team that was dedicated to uncovering the story and what they went through emotionally trying to piece it all together. The result is a disturbing, yet professional, film that honours the investigators and doesn’t glorify anything. It never undermines the importance of the truth and its responsibility to the audience. It’s no mistake that Spotlight has walked away with six Academy Award nominations including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay.

Just as the investigative team works together and no one tries to outshine the other, the cast of Spotlight is so well-balanced that it’s difficult to say whose performance was better because they were all gripping. However, both Mark Ruffalo (The Avengers, Foxcatcher) and Rachel McAdams (Southpaw, About Time) showed the most emotional range and both have been nominated for Best Supporting Actor Oscars.  Michael Keaton, who received his first Oscar nomination for Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) last year is great as the veteran manager of the “Spotlight” team who just wants to “get it right”. Liev Schreiber (Salt, X-Men Origins: Wolverine) deserves some credit for his wonderful (and underplayed) portrayal of the outsider who has just stepped in as editor of The Boston Globe; he doesn’t say much, but his direct delivery can be quite amusing. Finally, Stanley Tucci (The Hunger Games, Julie & Julia, The Lovely Bones) is perfection as the untrusting, but dedicated lawyer just trying to do the right thing no matter the cost.

Despite its heavy topic, Spotlight isn’t without humour; but it is completely appropriate and timed just right to help lighten the mood when it is most needed. The ending is not comforting, nor should it be, but you are left satisfied that the journalists did their jobs and that they did it right. The history of the abuse was finally public knowledge that could not, and would not, be ignored any longer.

What actor-turned-director Tom McCarthy (now with 3 Oscar nominations) has done here should be admired. Many would think it a big risk to make a movie about this delicate topic. Spotlight was perfectly unshowy and remained sensitive to the material, all while keeping the audience absorbed in the characters and their main goal. The final punch, the statistics surrounding the sex abuse, will leave you shaking your head and demanding justice. It’s exactly the reaction you should have. Spotlight has done its job.

Spotlight had a limited released in the USA and Canada in November 2015. It has been released in most other countries since January/February 2016.

Update: Spotlight won the Academy Award for BEST PICTURE

Watch the trailer here:

Southpaw – Antoine Fuqua

Southpaw starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Rachel McAdams.

Southpaw starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Rachel McAdams.
Photo Credit: Scott Garfield/The Weinstein Company

Heartbreaking, absolutely heartbreaking. Directed by Antoine Fuqua (Tears of the Sun, Training Day, Shooter, The Equalizer) and starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Southpaw follows the story of a very successful boxer, Billy Hope, who falls on hard luck after his wife (Rachel McAdams) dies tragically and everything else in his life disappears along with her.  In order to get his life and his daughter back, Billy Hope puts all his hope (not to mention his body) into getting back in the ring and becoming a better man and single father. With the help of a new trainer with demons of his own (Forest Whitaker), Billy finds it in himself to change his style, his attitude, and ultimately, the trajectory of his life. It can be painful to watch at times (for the punching as well as for the more emotional scenes), but it’s certainly worth watching.

Sports-related comeback movies are not uncommon, but what makes Southpaw so unique is the pure, raw emotion and the way it is presented. This movie is so well-acted that you forget you have seen this kind of boxing/redemption movie before. Jake Gyllenhaal is like you’ve never seen him. In order to condense the eight months of necessary boxing training in half, he trained twice a day for four months in order to get his body into the right shape and have enough boxing prowess to film the fight scenes. His isn’t just physically at his best either, this is one of the better performances he has given in his 24-year career. The other actors that should not (and cannot) be overlooked are the ones who play his wife and daughter, Rachel McAdams and Oona Laurence.  Since it was shown in the previews and provides the basis for the movie, the on screen death should come as no surprise and shouldn’t be considered a spoiler. But brace yourself; it is by-far one of the most gut wrenching, realistic, and heartbreaking moments you can ever witness on film.  Oona Laurence also has many impressive scenes, especially for a newcomer such as herself.

Overall, Southpaw is not light, is not funny, and should be watched with the expectation that you will be emotionally affected, perhaps even grieving through some intense moments. It is an absolute must-see for the performances and to witness what the human body can do (and endure) in four months.

The soundtrack features two new songs from Eminem (“Phenomenal” and “Kings Never Die”) and a score by the late James Horner, to whom the soundtrack was dedicated. As usual, Horner delivered a powerful score; his music and his talent will certainly be missed.

Southpaw is now available on DVD and Blu-ray. It made over $104M in the worldwide box office, about 50% of that was domestic.

Watch the official trailer: