Michael Keaton, did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Walter "Robby" Robinson, nor did Liev Schreiber for portraying Marty Baron, nor did Stanley Tucci for portraying Mitchell Garabedian in Spotlight.
What's intriguing about Schreiber's performance is that despite having that certain awkwardness that would go with a shyness, he is not a meek figure in the film, as again he is basically the only one who sees what everyone else failed to. Schreiber's really effective in the way he actually has this dominating presence in a very unique fashion. Though he never even comes close to raising his voice Schreiber actually carries this incisiveness in his delivery, as he goes about it in his own way, and there is always the sense that it would be impossible to deter Baron from his stance. It's remarkable as Schreiber is able to do this effortlessly, as he makes Baron a truly persuasive man, whose in charge without question, yet never has to force his hand. Schreiber presents the whole personality of Marty Baron just so flawlessly, and it's quite something that he's able to still give an engaging performance by giving one that would appear as low energy. Schreiber though makes it so that Marty certainly does not come off as though the actor portraying him is tired, but rather this is merely a man who we are seeing in his normal behavior.
Tucci is incredibly good at portraying the way Garabedian is not just in it for the potential money from the settlements of the victims. Tucci does this so quietly yet so eloquently as he reveals an earnest passion in Garabedian as he speaks about the crimes. He also importantly always portrays a strong undercurrent of empathy in Garabedian as he interacts with the few clients we see him with. Tucci carries the right charity in these interactions showing always Garabedian as well aware of what they've suffered, and is trying to do his best only to help them in any way he can. When he mentions to the reporter the fate of many of the victims, Tucci does well to deliver this just as blunt concern for the victims. Though it must be said that much of the cast does a fine job of providing the human element in their reactions during the scenes of the victim's testimonies, except for two of the performances that I'm covering here. Schreiber does not since Marty never directly works on the case, only providing oversight to the team to make sure they get the story right, and Michael Keaton, even though he's the head of the investigative team, though he technically does bear witness to as many of the testimonies as the others.
Keaton plays these scenes very close to the chest, but again finds the right nuance within this. It is not as though Robby is detached from any of the stories, but rather Keaton illustrates well the analytical method of the man. Keaton always shows that he is listening very carefully, but takes it all in through his own way which is to stay very reserved. There is never a question though that Robby does not also care about the victims' plight, but rather he's a man who stays professional above all else. Keaton rather skillfully reveals Robby's personal outrage in the scenes where he goes about questioning people involved with the crimes in some way, and demanding an actual answer. Keaton reveals the right intensity in these moments as Robby's distaste is keenly felt at the right moment. There's even more to it than that, as Keaton carefully alludes to something else whenever it is mentioned that the Globe received information about the cases beforehand. There's an underlying unease Keaton suggests in these moments, as though Robby is unsure of whether or not he is remembering something important correctly. He effectively builds on this unease, to the point that you could even miss it on an initial viewing of the film, but Keaton makes it feel very real as Robby has to accept his own failures of the past.
Keaton actually has the one character with a major arc, though its handled in such a subtle fashion by both the film and his performance it sneaks up on you. Keaton delivers so well though that its surprisingly powerful when Robby must admit that he failed to act just as so many did. All three of these performances work even past the notion of having a character arc. They are part of an ensemble in the best possible way. They just add to the film, giving it all the more character, in just how effortlessly they inhabit their roles. Though you barely learn anything about any of their personal lives, you definitely feel that Robby, Marty and Garabedian live outside of the confines of the story. Though to be fair the same can be said about everyone else in the cast, except somebody I'm still not going to mention. The three of them make the right impact. All three have scenes where they stand out but it's always at the right time. Keaton in his confrontation scenes. Tucci's especially great in a memorable scene where Garabedian explains his plan as lawyer, as he reveals the shrewdness of the man, though also still with that layer of concern as it also acts as a bit of a warning about the powers against everyone trying to make the scandal public as well. Schreiber is understated as usual in a pivotal moment where they talk about not taking action earlier. Schreiber makes Marty's reassuring speech to everyone resonate powerfully, as he presents such genuine warmth in his support in his words, while still Marty stays his usual low key self. These are three very strong supporting performances, that never distract from the story, but rather only help to alleviate it to even greater heights.