In 2001, a team of Boston Globe reporters launch a fearless investigation into allegations against the Catholic Church. By early 2002, the reporters will have uncovered a shocking citywide scandal, with their investigation threatening to bring down some of the city's most powerful figures. They know that the Church is the very fabric of their city, but are determined to expose the systemic abuse of children by Catholic priests - and the years of cover up that protected them. (Based on a true story)
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
It could only be told if it were a true story or else the outrage from some quarters would be deafening. And as it is a true story, the outrage from other quarters should be deafening. The ripple effect of this piece of investigative journalism is demonstrated before the end credits, where a scroll lists the dozens and dozens of places around the world where child sexual abuse by the clergy has been documented.
As a piece of cinema, Spotlight (the name of the investigative team at the Boston Globe) is exceptional. The story unfolds in chronological order and with clarity, and is studded with the elements of a chase, or a thriller, as the small team pursue people, clues and testimony, often coming jarringly against the (so called Christian) church's culture of self protection.
The entire A list cast is outstanding: Mark Ruffalo as Mike the reporter who was a terrier in his previous life; Michael Keaton as Robby Robinson, determined Spotlight Editor with a secret; Rachel McAdams as Sacha Pfeiffer and Brian d'Arcy James as the two other Spotlight reporters; Liev Schreiber as Marty Baron, the incoming Globe Editor, smart and cool; Stanley Tucci as Garabedian the hard working lawyer; and Jamey Sheridan as the Church's legal advisor Jim Sullivan, old friend of Robby's now on the wrong side of history. But there are others, too, some with smaller parts, but all with roles that matter.
There's a small moment in the third act that will bring nostalgic joy to old school journalists who still remember days when reporters reported. Editor Marty Baron is scanning the copy of the first story (the Globe went on to publish almost 600 on the subject in 2002) and strikes out something, mumbling 'adjective'. Dear reader, adjectives do not belong in news stories.
Technically excellent in almost all departments, the film has one weakness; some of the dialogue is lost or blurred in a combination of rapid-fire delivery and imperfect sound mix.
Review by Louise Keller:
The stench of a dead rat in the corner is a fitting analogy to the film's theme about the church cover up to child molestation. Like Truth, the film plays out like a gripping procedural, in which the meticulous investigative work of the journalists at the Boston Globe is placed under the microscope. Based on real events, every aspect of this story is shocking, but somehow the combination of all the elements explodes into something quite sordid. While the revelations have been told before in such films as Silence in the House of God: Mea Maxima Culpa (2013) and Deliver us from Evil (2014), the perspective is new, with a multi-prong approach and a top cast that drives the narrative.
After a brief prologue set in 1976 in which a priest is briefly held at a Boston police station, the story begins in earnest in July 2001 with the appointment of a new editor to the Boston Globe. In the predominantly Catholic city in which family and baseball play a large part, Liev Schreiber is well cast as Marty Baron, the unmarried, Jewish, baseball agnostic, who brings an outsider's perspective as he tries to makes the paper more essential to local readers. Schreiber's height works in his favour and his minimalist performance sits perfectly.
The story Baron tasks the four-man investigative team Spotlight is that of the little publicised, now defrocked priest, who had molested 80 young boys during his years in the priesthood. But this story is simply the tip of the iceberg, as the alarming discovery is made, that in Boston alone, not only 90 priests are guilty of molesting youngsters, but that the Catholic church has swept all evidence under the holy carpet.
It's an ensemble piece with Michael Keaton heading the Spotlight team as Walter 'Robbie' Robinson, who discovers his personal relationships with key players confronts him with his own failings. Keaton is especially good, along with Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams and Brian D'Arcy James as the team's journalists who interview the traumatised victims, pursue lawyers and discover key information as to how to identify the priests. Watch for Stanley Tucci as the dedicated lawyer and Billy Crudup as the Church's attorney - both are effective in different ways.
Spotlight is an intelligent film with engrossing elements. The topic may be unsavoury but the way director Tom McCarthy tells the story is respectful to the topic as it offers inspiration as to how truth can be best revealed.
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CAST: Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, Brian d'Arcy James, Billy Crudup, Stanley Tucci, John Slattery, Len Cariou
PRODUCER: Michael Bederman, Blye Pagon Faust, Steve Golin, Nicole Rocklin, Michael Sugar
DIRECTOR: Tom McCarthy
SCRIPT: Tom McCarthy, Josh Singer
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Masanobu Takayanagi
EDITOR: Tom McArdle
MUSIC: Howard Shore
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Stephen H. Carter
RUNNING TIME: 129 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: eOne
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: January 28, 2016