Spotlight, Tom McCarthyâ€™s real-life drama about a team of Boston Globe journalists who expose a ring of paedophile priests, pulled a final reel surprise at the Academy Awards on Sunday night. The film, whose ensemble includes Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton and Rachel McAdams, snatched best picture from rival contenders The Revenant and Mad Max: Fury Road in the final minutes of the show.
The film had only taken one award â€“ for best original screenplay â€“ in the ceremony until that point, and momentum appeared to be with The Revenant, Alejandro GonzÃ¡lez IÃ±Ã¡rrituâ€™s epic western, which had taken best director, actor and cinematography.
Morgan Freeman announced the winner to gasps from the audience at the Dolby theatre, after which the cast and crew skipped, amazed, on stage. Accepting the award, producer Michael Sugar said he hoped the filmâ€™s message â€“ that institutional silence over child abuse was not to be tolerated â€“ would â€œresonate all the way to the Vaticanâ€.
He continued with a direct call to the pontiff. â€œPope Francis: itâ€™s time to protect the children and restore the faith.â€
It was the final call to arms in a ceremony dominated by controversy. In his speech accepting his first ever best actor award, DiCaprio said he hoped audiences would heed what The Revenant said about â€œmanâ€™s relationship with the natural worldâ€.
â€œClimate change is real,â€ he said. â€œIt is happening right now. It is the most urgent threat affecting our species. We need to work together and stop procrastinating.â€
DiCaprio concluded by urging support for those people whose â€œvoices have been drowned out by the politics of greedâ€. â€œLet us not taken this planet for granted,â€ he said. â€œI do not take tonight for granted.â€
IÃ±Ã¡rritu was named best director for the second consecutive year, following his success with Birdman in 2015, and used his speech to reference the race debate that has dominated this yearâ€™s awards season, calling it a â€œgreat opportunity for our generation to liberate ourselves from prejudice and make sure the colour of your skin is as irrelevant as the colour of your hair.â€
But the real success story of the night was the storming performance of George Millerâ€™s belated instalment in the Mad Max franchise, Fury Road, in which Tom Hardy took over from Mel Gibson and starred alongside a shaven-headed, one-armed Charlize Theron.
The movie ran away with the technical categories, taking six awards â€“ three more than any other film â€“ for costume design, production design, hair and makeup, editing, sound editing and sound mixing. The costume award was won by Jenny Beavan â€“ the woman described as a â€œbag ladyâ€ by host Stephen Fry at the Baftas a fortnight ago.
In her speech, Beavan cautioned that the post-apocalyptic wasteland depicted in the film could become reality â€œif we donâ€™t stop polluting our atmosphere. It could happenâ€.
The best actress award was won by frontrunner Brie Larson, for her role as a kidnapped mother in Room. But there were further surprises in the supporting categories as Bridge of Spiesâ€™ Mark Rylance triumphed over Sylvester Stallone andThe Danish Girlâ€™s Alicia Vikander beat Kate Winslet (who had taken the Bafta and Golden Globe in the same category).
The show opened with host Chris Rock engaging head-on with the #OscarsSoWhite controversy, sparked by the lack of acting nominees of colour. Yet rather than overshadowing the event, the controversy was co-opted by Rock, with almost all his monologue and most of his between-awards patter dominated by talk of diversity.