Movie review: ‘Spotlight’ a beautiful look at the power of investigative reporting
–There are a lot of wonderful things the modern age of technology has brought us. But the flip side of every virtue is a fault. And one of the faults of this era is the things we have lost. “Spotlight” shines a light on that, while telling a devastating story.
In 2015, newsgathering, reporting and journalism are different than in era’s past. In the past, people worked for months to gather investigative reports, shinning a light on areas of darkness and corruption and safeguarding our society. The Spotlight team at the Boston Globe is one group that does that.
In 2001, the Spotlight team began to look into allegations regarding the Catholic Church. What they found rocked not only the city of Boston, but also the world. And watching “Spotlight,” the film based on that story, you can’t help but be moved by the story and by the nagging feeling that we’re losing something as a society as newspapers become marginalized by changes in technology.
“Spotlight” focuses on a team of investigative journalists that stumble onto a story that threatens to change the way people in Boston view institutions, including the government and the Catholic Church. It begins with a simple allegation of 13 priests who have abused children and had their misdeeds covered up by the church.
New Globe editor Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber) wants to dig into these allegations, though news editor Ben Bradlee, Jr. (John Slattery) thinks there’s nothing to it. Spotlight editor Walter “Robby” Robinson (Michael Keaton) isn’t sold either, but he sets his team to work.
The Spotlight reporters — Mike Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), Sacha Pfieffer (Rachel McAdams) and Matt Carroll (Brian d’Arcy James) — starting interviewing victims, lawyers and priests, and what they find is something shocking. The more they dig, the bigger the scandal becomes.
In the shadow of the tragedy on 9/11, the Spotlight team prepares a series of articles that will rock Boston, and the rest of the world, to its core.
This is a powerful story beautifully told. Tom McCarthy — who directed and co-wrote the screenplay — has a great feel for telling these kind of smaller, deeply personal stories. In the past he’s done that with “The Station Agent” and “The Visitor,” and now he plies his talent to what is the best film I’ve seen in 2015.
It’s a beautiful film that provoked two thoughts for me. First, this kind of investigative journalism is vital and important to our society, but it’s the kind of journalism that is being pushed aside by bloggers and the 24/7 news cycle. In the past we’ve had films like “All The President’s Men” that chronicled stories like this. But I can’t help but wonder if those days are past, and that’s a shame.
Second, there is incredible power in the story of what is uncovered. As a Christian, I was particularly moved by the idea that a trusted institution, such as the Catholic Church, would have put its reputation above what is right. By hiding these transgressions they sought to protect their reputation at the cost of so many damaged lives — not just in Boston but, as the film shows, throughout the world. I see it as an incredible cautionary tale about the role of institutions, and their duty to bring dark deeds to light.
But this is also incredible as a piece of narrative. It’s full of rich performances — particularly from Ruffalo and Keaton — that help drive the story forward. I was hooked from the beginning and moved by the way this story is told, and the care with which the narrative comes to life on screen.
“Spotlight” isn’t a big, flashy movie, but it’s a beautifully told story that says something important about our world. It is a movie I think everyone should see.
“Spotlight” has been rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America for some language including sexual references. Enter with caution.
Four stars out of four.