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Spotlight

Investigative journalism currently seems a thing of the past.  With legal threats hanging over reporters and the insatiable lust for instant news, the chance for airing truth is distant.  That’s why it’s refreshing watching ‘Spotlight’.  A trip to the recent past where media moguls didn’t dictate what was said and free of bias, the featured reporters thrive on conveying facts.  Such journalists still exist and hopefully will again appear ready to unearth the truth behind one-sentence headlines.

 

A deep reporting unit of the Boston Globe newspaper, ‘Spotlight’ takes its time in developing stories.  Among the journalists are Walter (Michael Keaton), Sacha (Rachel McAdams) and Mike (Mark Ruffalo).  When new Editor-in-Chief Marty (Liev Schreiber) wants them to delve into allegations of underage sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, they are initially wary. Soon they discover a web of lies and decades of deception.  Taking on the powerful Catholic hierarchy, the ‘Spotlight’ team aim to reveal the murky underbelly some will hide at any cost.

 

‘Spotlight’ presents an excellent case for cinematic minimalism.  Free of the histrionics some dramas use, ‘Spotlight’ offers a straight-forward and absorbing narrative. The journalists are there to do their job and discover a cesspool of shocking actions.  A story of the abuse of power and how an institution tries to maintain it shows how a culture of secrecy can easily develop.  The statements from victims are sometimes harrowing to hear, such is a screenplay determined to present the outrageous acts for what they were.

 

Tom McCarthy’s steady direction ensures ‘Spotlight’ maintains an even pace.  The performers bring much gravitas to their roles, helping McCarthy to show their rage and singular determination in revealing ugly truths.  With the strong screenplay they’re given, they force the viewer to question their own attitudes and amazement at how such crimes could occur.  ‘Spotlight’ isn’t anti-religion despite its central motif but keenly wants to rail against how the exploitation of any authority should never be tolerated.

 

Less reliant on technological means and more on their analytical skills, the characters of ‘Spotlight’ make it worth watching.  Their efforts can only be applauded and makes one hope such crimes on a huge scale never happen again.

 

Rating out of 10:  8

 

Room

The simplest movies have often been the best.  Discarding the ‘blockbuster mentality’ of Hollywood, films thinking outside the square are usually the most memorable.  ‘Room’ literally tries to do just that.  With its protagonists locked in a square room, their way out of it and consequent dealing with the outside world offers compelling viewing.  Free of the bells and whistles of big-budgeted productions, ‘Room’ provides an interesting look at humanity in ways not often seen.

 

Ma (Brie Larson) and her young son Jack (Jacob Tremblay) live in a small windowless room.  Held captive by Old Nick (Sean Bridges) for seven years, Ma’s resilience at being repeatedly abused by Nick is at breaking point.  With Jack having been born during captivity, Ma determines to escape and finally show Jack the real world.  Hatching a plan to escape, what follows changes their world forever.

 

‘Room’ is a film of two parts.  Initially an escape story, ‘Room’ morphs into a striking tale of discovery.  Their re-adjustment from their enclosed world to an open one provides fascinating viewing.  Forced for so long to cope in a confined space, their ability to handle a newish world tests their confidence.  This is especially seen through Jack as he learns to communicate with others and expand his horizons.  Whilst the earlier section within the room is well handled, ‘Room’ effectively comes into its own once they come out of it.

 

None of this would work without the fine performances.  Tremblay and Larson make their roles believable with authentic reactions to ordinary situations.  You feel their character’s trepidation as they walk among others for the first time in years.  The low-key direction and moody photography ensure the story’s aim for realism works.  This makes it easier to invest in what we see with Ma’s and Jack’s emotional reactions often genuinely moving.

 

One can’t find a simpler concept than ‘Room’ but it’s one that succeeds.  The way it examines the human condition is fairly original and one to be grateful for in an increasing age of celluloid familiarity.

 

Rating out of 10:  8