Taking place around the events of 9/11, Spotlight tells the story of a small team of investigators that work for The Boston Globe. Boasting an incredibly talented cast, and coming off of unbelievable reception out of Telluride and Venice, I was eager to get finally to check out the film, despite not being a fan of director Thomas McCarthy’s other projects. Prior to premiering at the Venice Film Festival last week, many were hesitant to believe Spotlight was actually worthy of awards, due to McCarthy’s previous film, The Cobbler being universally panned coming out of the Toronto International Film Festival last September.
I am personally astonished by the incredible reception that this is getting so far. As a director, McCarthy fails to draw any intrigue from the viewer, despite moving at incredibly fast pace. Part of this is due to the characters. They are the definition of one-dimensional. Outside of the case, we hardly know anything about these people. Not a single character in this massive ensemble has any attributes that stick out. Not even the consistently great actors could save these drab characters from the dead.
There is not a single emotional scene throughout the course of Spotlight. That’s a major problem when your film surrounds around uncovering the child molestation scandal that has surrounded the Catholic Church for decades on end. Not until when the title cards come crawling around does McCarthy genuinely provide information on this difficult subject. The screenplay neglects to inform the viewer of what the basic terms are that these characters are throwing around constantly. McCarthy does not think to inform the audience here. He just expects the audience to know everything these journalists are talking about throughout the film.
McCarthy not just directed this abysmal experience, but he also co-wrote it with Josh Singer. You might remember Josh Singer as the writer behind the dreadful Julian Assange biopic, The Fifth Estate from 2013. Spotlight makes you appreciate the great films that surround journalism. As writers, Singer and McCarthy try to emulate what worked best from All the President’s Men, but they fail on every single account. The script lacks the thoughtful conversations that it needed to elevate this to something that was at least worthwhile. There is absolutely no fluency whatsoever between the “Spotlight” team. The conversations feel like they are taken straight out of a screenplay.
Even on a purely visual level, Spotlight is incredibly bland. Cinematographer Masanobu Takayanagi, who has shot some truly gorgeous films throughout his career, fails to grab our eye. It’s not until way into the film when we finally see some color that you would not see in your typical office building, and this is only for a brief second. Conversations are filmed in such an incredibly uninteresting fashion. The camera barely moves around when characters are speaking with each other inside. There is absolutely no reason why anyone has to see Spotlight in a theater. Watching completely uninspired characters talk with each other without any visual flair becomes incredibly tedious when that is all your film is for over two hours.
Spotlight showcases some of the most embarrassing ADR that I have seen all year long. Not only is the audio way too loud compared to the rest of it, but the audio sounds incredibly distorted. I’m only to believe that the cut that was screened today was an unfinished product, because if not, Spotlight will go down as one of the worst mixed films of the 21st Century. In a matter of minutes does McCarthy attempt to wrap everything up and bring everything to an end. The ending of the film is incredibly anticlimactic, and it just leaves you feeling like you just wasted two hours of your life on this dreadfully hollow story.