Spotlight follows the Boston Globe journalist who investigated the true story of child molestation and it’s cover up within the Boston area. The Spotlight team is compromised of its firm leader Walter Robbie, played by Michael Keaton, who is hot off the press from last year’s Birdman. Under him are his reporters Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams), Mike Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), and Matt Carroll (Brian d’Arcy James) and he reports to veteran Ben Bradlee Jr. (John Slattery) and the new editor in chief, Martin Baron (Liev Schreiber).
Baron, the epitome of a non-Boston, who doesn’t like baseball, isn’t Catholic, and Jewish nudges Robbie to follow up on a recent article about a local priest accused of child abuse. Reluctant at first the Spotlight team start their methodical investigation. The list of priest who are accused of similar behavior quickly grows and expands to the surrounding Boston neighborhoods. This sets off a chain of events that lead to a deeper truth.
This movie doesn’t pace up the action or ramp it up in anyway. It doesn’t convey a false sense of thrill that searching through old newspaper clippings or creating excel worksheets is the excitement it’s not suppose to be. These are the actions in this pre-digital age that grip the audience to a story about doing due diligence to uncover secrets. However, there are extraneous moments that throw off this flow, but nothing major to distract from the bigger picture. The pacing isn’t slow and relentless, but is steady and consistent with a few awkward bumps.
The movie has good performances, but it’s great performances come from unexpected sources. Each of the actors part of the Spotlight team has an opportunity to display insights about their real journalist counterparts. Moments like, McAdams’ conflict with what she is uncovering at work and having to break that news to her devoted church going grandmother or Caroll’s character having young kids and finding out he lives near one of the priests, are what mirrors these characters to their actual walking around counterparts. Stanley Tucci’s performance of Mitchell Garabedian, the lawyer representing various victims, serves the narrative very well. He helps to move the story forward by causally dropping hints over a packed lunch outside of a courtroom. His delivery of key lines gets the other characters and the audience themselves thinking about their own actions. Two standout performances that truly invoke an emotional response comes from two victims recounting their tale, Michael Cyril Creighton and Jimmy LeBlanc who play Joe Crowley and Patrick McSorley. Although they only have a brief moment to share their story, it is all that is needed to provide the foundation for the journalist. Their performance brings gravity to the story which motivates the journalist to know they are doing something meaningful.
Despite this film telling a narrative that is mainly exposition, it is a great medium for spreading this story. Visually it used simple pans and no frills to keep the film in a proper mindset. The cinematic aspects, like the direction, cinematography, and lighting, were done subtly and unobtrusively. The best use of the film medium occurs at the very end. After the audience has invested a tad over two hours on this journey at the final moments a list of cities appear showing how large a scope this truth had. Seeing the shear number of affected areas after focusing on just the city of Boston was heart wrenching. It’s moments like these the forgotten power of film delivers a healthy reminder of it’s presence.
It’s been a while since a movie brought out a discussion about current state of affairs, like the role of journalism. Gone Girl touched upon the role of the media briefly, but not to this extent. I began to ask myself questions, like when has journalism had such a big impact on people and how their roles as gatekeepers can shape a society. The film argues that “everybody” in the grand scheme, from neighbors, cops, to the larger organizations, all were compliant in this cover up to a certain degree. This film got me thinking about our role in the consumption of news. By paying attention to certain stories that may be frivolous and ignoring greater stories, are we to blame for the state of news and media today?
From great performances and not pretending to be anything it isn’t, this film will keep you engaged. Hopefully you’ll uncover something for yourself just as these fine reporters did for the world. This film is still playing in my area and if it seems like your cup of tea give it a chance . If it isn’t playing in your area keep a weather eye out once it hits DVDs or streaming mediums.