Spotlight is one of the best real-life stories of investigative journalism since 1976’s All the President’s Men. There is nothing to dislike about this movie besides the subject matter.
The film is about a newly-hired senior editor Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber) at the Boston Globe and his insistence that the members of “Spotlight,” a four-person investigative team led by editor Walter Robinson (Michael Keaton), conduct an investigation into the child abuse committed by Catholic Church clergy.
When the reporters start digging, they’re shocked when they uncover a massive conspiracy to cover up years of child abuse, involving hundreds of children in the Boston area, perpetrated by at least 87 pedophile priests.
The subject matter is very uncomfortable but writer/director Tom McCarthy does a marvellous job of providing a riveting account of the paper’s Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation.
The reality of the problem is so hard to digest and accept, but the screenplay presents it all in a very straightforward style and allows the power of the narrative to play out without any over the top melodrama or forced emotions.
The story is from the reporters’ perspectives, so we share in their setbacks and cheer for their accomplishments while searching for truth inside a holy labyrinth of lies and cover-ups.
When you have the likes of Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, Stanley Tucci, and Billy Crudup all in one film together, you better have a script that allows all those actors to add something special to the story.
Strong performances from Keaton and Ruffalo really add a certain spark to the film. Both actors went above and beyond when it came to researching their real-life characters. A strong an understated Liev Schreiber adds a very quiet and subtle performance to his character that balanced out the rest of the cast.
The film opens our eyes to the shocking truth that the Catholic Church is made up of pedophile priests that are spread across the Globe. It’s a pandemic of sickness that is described in the film as a real psychological condition that can happen when you have men who are bound to archaic spiritual rules, like the vow of celibacy, and are affected by the secrecy it demands.
The 2002 investigation sent shock-waves not just through Boston but the entire world. It was important for the story to get out, and the film does a wonderful job of showing how difficult that actually was. It’s not every day you see a newspaper talk about suing the Catholic Church.
Like All the President’s Men, Spotlight operates like a classic mystery with reporters chasing down leads, verifying facts, delving into research, and looking to for that elusive target called truth. As a viewer you are immediately sucked into the newsroom and you’re with them for the entire journey.
It’s a long film (2:08), but it never feels slow, despite often being about people on the phone or trying to take notes. In fact when the film finally ends you want another hour tacked on. That’s gripping film making at its best. This film showcases journalism at its finest and it just might restore your faith in the media.
Cinema Factoid: During every break, Mark Ruffalo asked the real Michael Rezendes to say his lines for him. He also carried a notebook and used his iPhone to record Rezendes’ voice in order to get his speech patterns accurate.
I don’t have a single negative thing to say about Spotlight. Just like the Boston Globe reporters, this film stands apart. I would hope that this movie gets some Oscar nominations for best picture, screenplay, and, definitely, best director. This is an important masterpiece and should not be ignored.
No problems giving Spotlight 5 raindrops out of 5. For a more in-depth analysis on this film and others that were released this week, give our new podcast Flix Anonymous a listen below.
This film is rated R and opens on November 13.