Directed by Tom McCarthy.
Starring Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, Billy Crudup, Len Cariou, Jamey Sheridan, Brian D’Arcy James, Neal Huff, and Stanley Tucci.
The true story of how the Boston Globe uncovered the massive scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese, shaking the entire Catholic Church to its core.
Picking up your newspaper at the front door only to learn that the Catholic Church had an entire meticulously crafted system in place to shuffle around the pedophile child molesters among their ranks (ensuring that there are no repercussions or action taken against them) is one way to ring in the new year. It’s harrowing, shocking, and depressing all at once, but sometimes the world has to be made aware of things, even if it’s not something they particularly want to know.
On the other side of the coin, there’s the Boston Globe’s independently contracted investigative Spotlight team; a small group of four (portrayed by Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, and Brian D’Arcy James) heralded in high regard for their crackdown on stories of extreme social relevance, whom sometimes take up to a year or more before officially publishing their findings in the papers. They are pursuing tips and past incidents of this case even though 51% of the Globe’s readers are Catholic, and may not want to know of something so incriminating and morally corrupt beyond all redemption.
Even though we don’t see much of the journalists’day-to-day lives outside of their dedicated work ethic (most of them don’t have much on their plate besides work anyway), what we are given insight to counts. We know that the Nana of Rachel McAdams’character is Catholic and visits church quite a few times a week, yet she continues pursuing the story with her coworkers despite the potential awkwardness and rift it could create within their relationship once the horrors are made public. Most supporters of something they believe in (especially so with religion) don’t react rationally to slanderous material, but with hostility and defensive contempt, yet the Spotlight team knows what’s right is to break the story and the silence.
Director Tom McCarthy knows that the everyday ups and downs of these journalists is irrelevant however, and as mentioned above, largely forgoes defining them as characters outside personalities of good intentions. There are even moments when members of the team argue with one another regarding the proper time to publish the story. Is it best to be first, getting the story out there without enough evidence to truly spark change, or to ferociously keeping digging at the risk of more offenses?
Everything is tackled with so much delicacy that, as a writer,it can get your mind working. We live in an age where getting information out first is paramount to web traffic and sustaining enough viewership to maintain a profit, that Spotlight serves as a genuine reminder to all journalists (whether they are doing actual important research or just writing about entertainment) that the effort and quality of their work should be the primary focus. Elements of this are touched on as the country was going through a slow transition to the Internet for news as it became more readily available.
What really makes Spotlight a remarkable film though is the story itself. There are scenes with lawyers protecting information as they profited from keeping settlements hush-hush under the table, juxtaposed with heartbreaking statements from victims actually dubbed as survivors. There is a point where Rachel McAdams’ character mentions that she needs more details than simply being told “he then molested me”, which is not only true, but also a reminder that audiences need to be told everything. You can’t have one foot in the door and leave the other outside; it would be a disservice to the impact of the film to not lay everything on its viewers. Most importantly, these scenes of survivors recalling honest shame are emotionally draining to watch without coming across exploitative.
Obviously, it takes someone psychologically imbalanced to commit these atrocities, also ruining the lives of others, and Spotlight does contain some moments where the accused attempt to justify their sexual abuse. One priest is very open regarding having molested children when questioned, quickly going on to mention that he was once raped himself. The scene isn’t meant to garner sympathy for the priests, but to at least humanize them and showcase that some of them may have been emotionally and psychologically broken themselves. What other reason would there be to feel compelled to do things so sickening?
At the core of it all is the aforementioned ensemble cast of which Michael Keaton and Mark Ruffalo stand out as clear candidates for various acting awards. Without any backstory, we get a feel for who these journalists are, along with their earnest and diligence to bringing justice. Mark Ruffalo specifically gets some more of the meatier pieces of dialogue and is the perfect vessel for captivating audience’s interest. At one point he emphatically declares this could have happened to anyone, and the horrifying truth is that he is right. Many scenes are even subtlety punctuated with children playing outside as a reminder of the predatory danger lurking the streets.
Spotlight may have many faces and names to keep track of, but it is fairly powerful cinema about a scandal that shook the very core of society, while also touching upon other interesting aspects such as ethical journalism. At 128 minutes, it also one of the most tightly directed films of the year, with constant petal to the metal on uncovering every dirty secret.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder – An aficionado of film, wrestling, and gaming. Follow me on Twitter or friend me on Facebook