Spotlight (I) (2015)
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Everything about this film is brilliant. The camera work is great and the score is underrated. However, what makes this film is an absolutely genius screenplay that is acted to perfection. This script will rock your world. I am not Catholic. I didn't grow up in a deeply Catholic area, but this film still affected me greatly. Everyone should see this movie for that reason. That is something that you have to see for yourself.
However, I'd like to focus a little more on the technical aspects. Beyond the fact that the subject matter is heavy and extremely important to American and world culture, this movie does everything else right. The acting is absolutely phenomenal. This is particularly true for Ruffalo and McAdams. I adore the subtlety with which they both act. It is brilliant. There isn't much more to say. This film is pure brilliance from its opening frame to its closing moment. For both cinematic and cultural reasons, this is a film that every person should see.
Spotlight was shown in the Out of Competition section of the 72nd Venice International Film Festival. It was also shown at the Telluride Film Festival and the Special Presentations section of the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival. The film was released on November 6, 2015, by Open Road Films. It won numerous guilds and critics' association awards, and was named one of the finest films of 2015 by various publications. It is nominated for six Academy Awards including Best Film Editing, Best Supporting Actor: Mark Ruffalo, Best Supporting Actress: Rachel McAdams, Best Original Screenplay, Best Director, and Best Picture.
In 2001, The Boston Globe hires a new editor, Marty Baron. Baron meets Walter "Robby" Robinson, the editor of the Spotlight team, a small group of journalists writing investigative articles that take months to research and publish. After Baron reads a Globe column about a lawyer, Mitchell Garabedian, who says that Cardinal Law (the Archbishop of Boston) knew that the priest John Geoghan was sexually abusing children and did nothing to stop him, he urges the Spotlight team to investigate. Journalist Michael Rezendes contacts Garabedian, who initially declines interview. Though he is told not to, Rezendes reveals that he is on the Spotlight team, persuading Garabedian to talk.
Initially believing that they are following the story of one priest who was moved around several times, the Spotlight team begin to uncover a pattern of sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests in Massachusetts, and an ongoing cover-up by the Boston Archdiocese. Through a man who heads a victim's rights organization, they widen their search to thirteen priests. They learn through an ex-priest who worked trying to rehabilitate pedophile priests that there should be approximately ninety abusive priests in Boston. Through their research, they develop a list of eighty-seven names, and begin to find their victims to back up their suspicions. When the September 11 attacks occur, the team is forced to deprioritize the story. They regain momentum when Rezendes learns from Garabedian that there are publicly available documents that confirm Cardinal Law was aware of the problem and ignored it. After The Boston Globe wins a case to have even more legal documents unsealed, the Spotlight Team finally begins to write the story, and plan to publish their findings in early 2002.
As they are about to go to print, Robinson confesses to the team that he was sent a list of twenty pedophile priests in 1993 in a story he never followed up on. Baron, nevertheless, tells Robinson and the team that the work they are doing is important. The story goes to print with a link leading to the documents that expose Cardinal Law, and a phone number requesting victims of pedophile priests to come forward. The following morning, the Spotlight team is inundated with phone calls from victims coming forward to tell their stories. The film closes with a list of places in the United States and around the world where the Catholic Church has been involved in concealing abuse by priests.
The Globe thought this story was worthwhile when they had uncovered 13 priests that abused children. When they discovered it was closer to 90, they were shocked. The eventual number in Boston was 186! This is not surprising when it is estimated that 50% of all priests are not celibate.
Mark Ruffalo was amazing in this film, and Rachel McAdams was superb. Neither will likely win awards in a year of fantastic performances, but there is a chance the film may steal an Oscar. It would be a great thing.
The film was very difficult for a Catholic to watch, but it was definitely worth it. Unlike the recent documentary, Mea Maxima Culpa, it focused on the Globe and the story, and not the abuse.
Tom McCarthy could not have been at the helm of a better film and what he has been able to achieve in terms of wrestling the attentions of the audience is worthy of the highest praise. McCarthy, along with Josh Singer have written a gritty story that pulls no punches and it isn't afraid to get right into the heart of the required subject. For 'Spotlight' to have been received by the critics as well as it has it had to stride unapologetically into this unbelievable and sordid affair. It needed to expose the sensitive and controversial information that some people may find confronting but in the context of this outstanding production, absolutely essential. It destroyed lives and revealed the blatant arrogance of this pious organisation.
The all star cast jumps right out at you even before the opening scenes are shot up onto the screen. Based on true events, 'Spotlight' pushes all the right buttons from the beginning. As the name implies, 'Spotlight' refers to the investigative journalism team who report for the Boston Globe newspaper. They are thorough, relentless and will stop at nothing to expose headline stories that affect the everyday lives of normal American's. When the new editor, Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber), drops a potentially explosive story in the lap of Spotlight chief, Walter Robinson (Michael Keaton), about allegations of sexual abuse involving the Catholic Church, Robinson and his loyal crew go about uncovering one of the greatest criminal cover-ups in human history. The deeper their investigation goes the more sadistic and shocking the outcome becomes. Fingers are pointed, people are accused and the list of clergy involved becomes larger and larger. The whole situation ceases to become a Boston problem and grows to a worldwide exposure. Rachel McAdams and Mark Ruffalo are part of the investigative team as young committed journalists Sacha Pfeiffer and Mike Rezendes respectively. McAdams performance is award worthy and Ruffalo is fully engaged in a role that matches his talents. Michael Keaton has found his niche in Hollywood as a sort after mentor showcasing another strong performance as the tenacious and hard hitting Robinson. The real 'cherry' in the cast is the presence of the magnificent Stanley Tucci as Mitchell Garabedian who represents the victims in the whole saga. Tucci adds the class that takes 'Spotlight' to another level with an engrossingly accomplished performance.
This is the best journalistic drama since 1976's 'All the President's Men'. Tom McCarthy has centred his narrative within the confines of the Boston Globe's newsroom as it should have been. 'Spotlight' doesn't shy away from the true nature of newspaper drama and the audience benefits from such an authentic setting. Top shelf acting from some of the very best young talent sparks the fire that captivates the viewer. Throw in some true icons in Keaton and Tucci and 'Spotlight' has the perfect balance. This film will be classified as the very best in its category and has set a benchmark in terms of confronting realism. Sit back and enjoy.
Keaton seems to be on a total roll at the moment and he is excellent as the head of Spotlight but the whole ensemble seemed to put in a real shift. This felt like a documentary at times and I could feel the audience around me leaning forward as each new revelation is uttered.
I was wrong.
This movie (and the big short) proved to me that it wasn't me, it was actually the movies I've seen this year.
This movie has it's flaws for sure. But the acting, script, direction, design and pace of the movie adds a lot to an already strong and heart breaking story. I was on the edge of my seat and even after the movie ended I couldn't move for a while.
A well made film that I recommend to any drama fan. It certainly helped me find my love for movies again.
Even with it's flaws I give it a 9.5
And then you will once again have difficulty catching your breath.
As a film it is superb. McCarthy who did double duty as writer and director deserves acknowledgement. The cast is universally excellent. Ruffalo gives the performance of his career, Keaton is solid as a rock, and McAdams reaps overdue dividends from her decision to broaden her career into non-glamorous roles at a time when the only scripts they were sending her were for Diva parts. Smart lady.
A reviewer is not supposed to interject personal feelings in a review but I will say without apology that I miss films like these -- films that speak for the injustice in society and offer solutions -- and wish there were more of them. It seems that when I was younger there was a lot more interest in doing the right thing merely because it was the right thing. This no longer seems to be the societal meme, and that troubles me.
"Spotlight" tells 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.
Where you must begin, with any praise for the film, is the audacious and fortifying script by Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer. The two create cinematic magic in their articulation of words, characters, and narrative storytelling. Each person feels authentic. Each scene feels rich and equally important as the last. And most of all, its the tightest, most satisfying film from beginning to end, seen this year. From minute one, you're hooked, up until the last second, where they decide the last words spoken should be, "Spotlight" is astonishingly crafted.
I'm still in shock and awe that Tom McCarthy is the one who made this. This is a writer/director who I've appreciated but didn't have the "love" factor surrounding any of his films. Paired with an outstanding cast, co-writer Josh Singer, editor Tom McArdle, cinematographer Masanobu Takayanagi and composer Howard Shore, Tom McCarthy gets a chance to create his masterpiece and succeeds. He makes brilliant artistic choices, such as letting a Mark Ruffalo letter reading play over a 2-minute taxi car ride back to the newspaper. McCarthy's direction is one of the best directorial efforts from any filmmaker this year thus far.
All the players performing are top-notch but walking away, best-in- show, is the performance of Academy Award nominee Mark Ruffalo. Ruffalo exhibits his best screen performance to date, and makes a stake in his claim for the Oscar this year. Weirdly reminiscent of Joaquin Phoenix's work in "The Master," Ruffalo builds his 'Mike' from the feet up, giving him his own characteristics that I'm not sure McCarthy and Singer set out to do. His expressions in words, mannerisms, all encapsulate the magnitude of his work, bookended by an explosive scene that brought tears to my eyes. Think back to Emma Stone's acclaimed work in "Birdman," and the scene that made everyone notice. I wanted to simply applaud.
Michael Keaton and Rachel McAdams, who play "Robbie" and "Sacha" respectively, are attune with their characters and destinations. Each bring strong sensibilities and sensitivity to their roles that desperately call for them. Hotly worked into the story is Liev Schreiber as a newly appointed Editor, that in the little screen time he's given, makes a long-lasting impression. Stanley Tucci is also afforded the same opportunity, and gives one of the film's best monologues.
If there's a film this year that feels like an Oscar-winner, "Spotlight" sure does make a compelling case. Dramatic, heart- pounding, and necessarily made. It's one of the most important films this year and probably THE BEST PICTURE OF THE YEAR. The Telluride tradition may continue.
The story begins with a quick flash-back to 1976 when a priest is jailed for sexual abusing a minor. The film then cuts to 2001. Marty Baron (Schreiber), a Jewish Floridian, becomes the main editor for the Boston Globe. He meets the different editors and journalists, and learns of work by Spotlight. A Globe column reveals a lawyer, Mitchell Garabedian, claims Cardinal Law, then Archbishop of Boston, knew Father John Geoghan, a priest within Law's diocese, was sexually abusing children, and the bishop did not bring him to the attention of authorities. Baron urges the Spotlight team to investigate further to see whether the claim is true and an isolated incident, or if there is more to the story. The "seed" is similar to the break-in of the democratic headquarters at the Watergate Complex which eventually revealed the Nixon White House had been engaging in multiple plots against perceived political enemies.
The Spotlight team is headed by Walter "Robby" Robinson (Keaton), a no-nonsense fair but tough reporter/editor. They agree to Baron's wishes and begin researching deeper to see if there is a larger story. Their first lead is the attorney mentioned in the article, Mitchell Garabedian (Stanley Tucci). Rezendes (Ruffalo) peruses Garabedian who acted as negotiator between the Boston Archdiocese and victims of Father Geoghan. The reporter wishes the attorney to reveal names of the victims, but at first Garabedian declines. Eventually, Garabedian agrees to contact victims, who are now much older, and ask them if they are willing to speak with Rezendes without revealing their names. Eventually, interviews are set up at the attorney's offices. The question then becomes whether there were other priests who engaged in similar criminal behavior against minors.
On another front, other members of the team, including Sacha Pfeiffer (McAdams), begin discovering the unspeakable reality of other victims possibly at the hands of more priests, aside from Geoghan. Then a tip from a former rehabilitation counselor for priests informs the team that, based on statistics, there may be as many as 90 priests involved with sexual abuse of children in the Boston Area alone. The team then appropriates volumes of an American guide book of Roman Catholic priests, published once a year, which lists the whereabouts of every clergyman in the church in terms of dioceses and parishes. The investigators make a startling discovery. Certain names in the book over several years are listed as "on leave due to illness", "on administrative leave", or other designations of inactivity after only one to three years at a particular parish, leading the team to consider these may be priests who engaged in sexual misconduct with minors. If true, it would place blame not only on Cardinal Law as possibly covering up the church's indiscretions but the entire Roman Catholic Church, all the way to the Vatican.
This is a stunning film about the power of a small group of urban reporters to uncover wrongdoing by one of the oldest and far-reaching institutions in the world: The Roman Catholic Church. In particular high marks for Mark Ruffalo as Michael Rezendes, Rachel McAdams as Sacha Pfeiffer, and Michael Keaton as Robbie Robinson. So much of the story parallels the Watergate Scandal of several decades earlier. As horrible as the actual victimization of minors by the priests, often boys because they were less likely to "squeal" because of the shame, the cover-up by Law was nearly as criminal. Instead of taking the priests to justice, as he should have done, he tried to cover it up by offering settlements to the families, often when the victims were minors. Law and probably other church officials moved the priests to other parishes where they engaged in similar behavior, thus allowing widespread sexual abuse to continue. It was eventually revealed that not only did these sexual predators victimize children in other parts of the country, it was happening internationally.
The lengths the directors go to to achieve a sense of authenticity is remarkable. We are there in Boston in 2001-2002. We get to know enough about each character to make him or her real, but not enough to create side dramas. The focus remains the child abuse scandal in the archdiocese in Boston. That reflects the conflict the characters face and deal with when events make them rethink the focus of their article.
The movie is riveting, though we know the outcome.
My disagreement with it likely winning Best Picture aside, there are some very fine filmmaking skills on show here in all departments. Director Tom McCarthy, in only his fifth turn at directing, has been nominated for a Best Directing award. While I don't like the lack of emotion his storytelling brought out in me, he clearly had a vision to tell a story in a certain way, and he got it done. He tells it in a punchy fashion that never allows the audience to drift off. The Best Directing race this year is a tight one with four of the five all being widely in contention. I don't think McCarthy will get the win however, as his film doesn't have the "X-Factor" going for it that a lot of the others do. Having said that, any film that wins Best Picture has to get some real credit for its director, so don't completely rule him out if it does indeed win that.
Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams have also been nominated for Best Supporting Actor and Actress awards. I have trouble understanding how, to again be frank. Roles based on real life characters always get more attention than others but these two had absolutely nothing to work with in the script. They were almost never given a chance to shine in any scene. Because of this I don't believe either has a chance of winning their respective award. It wasn't a film designed to make actors look good. Having said that, the stand out performance for me was Michael Keaton. He almost won the Best Actor award last year and this year can't even get a nomination. Had his been considered a Supporting Role I'm sure he would have but it was probably considered in that "in between" state, which may have hurt him.
There are a lot of true stories at this year's Acadmey Awards and I think 'Spotlight' is benefiting from being the most interesting story of them all. 'The Big Short' is another case of an interesting true story, however that was told in a very unique and clever way. Interestingly, that is the biggest competition 'Spotlight' will have when the winner is read out on the night. My fingers might just be crossed on the seeing the upset.
"Spotlight" depicts Boston Globe reporters investigating priest sex abuse of children. "Spotlight" focuses like a laser on what it is to be a journalist, to consider whether or not to cover a story, to select it, to research it, to uncover piece-by-piece, a full narrative, to publish it and to live with the consequences of publication.
You don't learn about the reporter's personal lives except for what you see incidentally as they work at home. There is no romantic subplot; there are no trumped-up action scenes where a reporter punches a priest. There's actually one of those scenes, no doubt a self- conscious salute to classic newspaper films, where you see newspapers being run through one of those giant machines that rapidly prints, folds, and stacks hard copies.
I've never seen a film in which I liked these actors more: Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Live Schreiber, John Slattery, Brian D'Arcy James, Stanley Tucci, Billy Crudup, Len Cariou. Lesser known actors in minor roles are every bit as good. There is no Hollywood in these performances. There's no sexy costumes or makeup, no grandstanding for the Academy. The actors are dressed in the workaday attire of newspapermen and women. Much of the film takes place in a grubby shared office full of sloppy manila file folders or in cafes and working class neighborhoods where informants are interviewed. Each performer plays a cog in a giant wheel working to uncover evil. None of them knows about world-shaking scandal still to come, or Pulitzer Prizes. They are just, with a pair of tweezers, turning over one leaf and seeing what lies beneath and adding that to the information already gathered. Even though viewers already know how this story played out in real life, the audience gasps when a discovery is made; the audience fears that a rock will be thrown through a window; the audience fears that judicial complicity will keep the story hidden. I began crying half an hour into the film. I was crying at the end. I made audible "Huh!" noises at especially and outrageously ironic moments, as did others in the audience. We applauded at the film's conclusion.
The film opens with a child in a police station, accompanied by his parents and a priest. A lawyer enters. Everyone speaks in hushed tones. "I promise this will never happen again." The police are cynical. The lawyer is smooth. The child is crushed. The parents are heartbroken. The priest appears slickly demonic. The scene is anonymous. Events like this were repeated at least a thousand times.
July, 2001. The Boston Globe acquires its first Jewish editor, Martin Baron. The Spotlight team is considering following up a case of priestly sex abuse. Slowly but surely, they discover that there are far more incidences than suspected. They discover not just one bad apple here and there. Rather, Cardinal Law has reassigned abusive priests to new parishes. Baron meets with Law. Law presents Baron with a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
"Spotlight" mentions "Good Germans" – people who kept their eyes closed to the disappearance of their Jewish neighbors, and the sudden appearance of ash falling from the sky. Just so, there were many "Good Bostonians." It's sickening to confront the many who had awareness of priestly sex abuse and did nothing. Targeted kids were powerless and without allies. One had a schizophrenic mother. Some had absentee fathers. Some were gay. Many were from the wrong side of the tracks. After they were abused, some became alcoholics, drug addicts, or suicides. When SNAP activist Phil Saviano is invited to the Boston Globe's office, and he talks about a conspiracy to protect abusive priests that stretches all the way to the Vatican, he comes across as a twitchy, obnoxious, conspiracy theorist raving about Area 51 – someone easy to write off.
The most nauseating reason of all given for ignoring clergy sex abuse: money. The Globe could have covered clergy sex abuse earlier, but it didn't. Over fifty percent of the paper's subscribers are Catholics. Boston is a small town, with a lot of insular Irish Catholics who don't want anyone rocking the boat, or risking various money streams, including the church's significant charity work.
Especially poignant are the scenes where abuse survivors are encouraged to detail what happened to them. "It's not enough to say he molested you. You must give me the clinical details of exactly what happened," reporters insist, to sobbing survivors, who must then re- inhabit their worst memories.
The plot churns forward with the single line of a freight train running on schedule. I was never bored.
The priestly sex abuse crisis is not a tragedy because the Catholic Church is corrupt. The priestly sex abuse crisis is a tragedy because the Catholic Church is great. The film could have become better than it is had it included this theme. Show Catholics feeding the homeless. Show Catholics recovering from grief with the support of their faith. Show Cardinal Law for what he once was – a courageous hero in the Civil Rights movement, when that meant receiving death threats and alienating the powerful. That something so beautiful is so sullied, along with individual victims' pain, is the heart of this tragedy.
I am a lifelong, church-going Catholic. I present my reasons for being Catholic, in spite of everything, in my book "Save Send Delete." I salute, not boycott, the Globe's reporting, and films like this. Confession and redemption are gifts we shared with the world.
In terms of the entire film, I summarized it appropriately in the title I believe. It is a very important subject and it was a strong cast making this subject work with dignity and professionalism, but I personally felt the heart was missing. And this subject certainly would have deserved to make a more emotional impact in the grand scheme of things than it did on me. The attempts by McCarthy to deliver in terms of that were something that felt rather forced than effective to me. They brought in references to the journalists' private lives and how it impacted them to some extent, but it did not feel too compelling to me to watch these and the victims also did not add as much as I hoped they would. The ending with Keaton's "Spotlight" quote was nicely done though. I also liked the way they brought in 9/11 getting in the way of disclosing the events. Overall, I believe this is an important movie that is worth watching mostly because it all happened in reality and because with the Best Picture win, it is probably now the defining film on a very contemporary and tragic occurrence of events. But I still feel it did not make the impact that it could have made and my favorite McCarthy film to this day stays "The Visitor". But I recommend "Spotlight" too of course. I would say it's nowhere near the best or worst Best Picture Academy Award winners.
It's challenging to name a movie that is as well-made as this one, while also being as difficult to watch. We know the story we even know how it snow-balled globally but the raw emotions of disgust and sheer anger permeate much of our being as we watch it unfold on screen. Director Tom McCarthy (The Station Agent, The Visitor) co-wrote the script with Josh Singer (The Fifth Estate) and it's worthy of favorable comparison to other investigative newspaper films like The Insider (1999), Zodiac (2007), and even the granddaddy of them all All The President's Men (1976).
The opening scene takes place in a 1976 Boston police station. A priest has been accused of molesting a child. Within a couple of minutes we witness the empty promises, the intimidation, and the cover up. So much is conveyed in this brief opener, not the least of which comes courtesy of the ambivalence of the veteran cop as he shrugs it off as 'just another day' in front of an idealistic rookie cop. This is accompanied by Howard Shore's spot-on score, with the best parts featuring only a piano and bass.
Flash forward to 2001 as we meet the investigative journalist team called "Spotlight". It's led by editor Walter "Robby" Robinson (Michael Keaton) and his three reporters: Mike Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), Sacha Pfieffer (Rachel McAdams), and Matt Carroll (Brian d'Arcy James). They report to Ben Bradlee Jr (John Slattery), whose father was the editor of The Washington Post during the Woodward/Bernstein/Watergate era. New to The Globe is managing editor Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber). Unlike the others, Mr. Baron is neither a Boston local nor a Catholic. In fact, we catch him reading Dan Shaughnessy's book "The Curse of the Bambino", just so he can get a better feel for the community and its people.
What is most fascinating about the movie is that it focuses on the investigative aspects – just how diligent the reporters were in putting the story together – and how fluid the process was the story led them, not vice versa. There was no media agenda to "get" the church. Instead, the reporters experienced natural shock as each piece of the puzzle was discovered. One of their key sources was a priest-turned-psychologist (voiced by Richard Jenkins) who helped them put scope to the numbers. Another was Phil Saviano (Neal Huff), the leader of a victim's group, who had tried before to provide documentation to the press. Saviano is the perfect example of how someone so passionate about a cause can be viewed with such skepticism right up to the point when they are proved correct. Three attorneys add perspective to the cover-up. Eric Macleish (Billy Crudup) made a career of settling cases (and silencing victims) for the church. Mitchell Garabedian (Stanley Tucci) is the polar opposite – he fights vigorously to get the victims heard, while Jim Sullivan (Jamey Sheridan) is caught in the middle – settling cases for the church and struggling with his conscience. Other interesting characters include Paul Guilfoyle as Pete Conley, a smooth-talking power-broker for the church, and Len Cariou as Cardinal Law – the man at the top who eventually apologized and was rewarded with a high-ranking position at The Vatican.
The film is so well crafted and acted that it features more than a few "best scenes". Sacha has a brief encounter with a former priest on his front door stoop. The priest freely admits to molesting kids and his rationalization will certainly deliver chills to most any viewer. Since this is Boston, it makes perfect sense for the reporters to be so distracted by the story, that it supersedes the Red Sox game they are attending at Fenway Park. Being that the investigation lasted well into 2001, it's quite informative to watch a news agency shift directions for the September 11 tragedy, and along with the nation, put all else on hold. Finally, there is a point in the movie where we as viewers have just about had our fill of extreme emotions – we either need to hit something or throw up – and reporter Rezendes comes through with exactly what is needed: an emotional outburst and release of exasperation rivaling anything previously seen on screen. It's a wonderful moment for Ruffalo as an actor, and a peak moment for viewers.
The story hit the front page of The Boston Globe in January 2002. The paper won a Pulitzer Prize in 2003 for its superlative investigative journalism. The report vindicated so many who had been taken advantage of, and exposed the colossal arrogance of the church. The innocence of a child vs the power of God. The story broke the faith that so many once held, and started a global (as evidenced by the closing credits) reckoning and awakening that was desperately needed. The film offers a line of dialogue, "It takes a village to raise a kid or abuse one." In other words, it took the often silent actions of so many to allow this despicably evil horror to continue. In a tribute to the newspaper profession, it took a small group of dedicated reporters to pull back a curtain that should never again be shut. Let's have faith in that.
With an all-star cast including Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Live Schreiber, John Slattery, Stanley Tucci and Billy Crudup, Spotlight shines a light on a 2001 investigation by The Boston Globe's on the sexual abuse within the Catholic Church.
Michael Keaton plays Walter Robinson who leads the Globe's investigative unit with Michael Rezendes (Ruffalo), Sacha (McAdams) and Matt Carrol (Brian d'Arcy James). Under a new editor Marty Baron (Schreiber), the team begins to unfold a horrific pattern of child sexual abuse by the church that was muted and covered up by high priced lawyers and payoffs to victim's families. As Walter probes further and further into the events (the setting is after the events the 9/11) the investigation reveals layers and layers of injustice of Catholic Priests that were aided by the highest powers of the church in an effort to keep the story muted.
It all starts with a featured column about Catholic priest John Geoghan who was accused of abusing over 100 boys. A civil suit is filed but the details of the abuse were ordered sealed by the courts. Schrieber's Baron puts the team of reporters on the case and within days the evil that lurked with the sacred rooms of local churches begins to reveal is foul and despicable face.
The investigation goes on for months as the team hits roadblock upon roadblock taking one step forward for every two steps back. But the story eventually breaks and the emotionally exhausted team is eventually able to bring to light one of the more depressing and important stories of the early new century.
Michael Keaton was really good in last year's Birdman and named himself many awards and an Academy Award nomination for his part. In Spotlight, he may be even better. Under the direction of Tom McCarthy (Win Win, The Station Agent), Keaton shines and carries a performance of determination, frustration and redemption that is delivered with precision.
Nods to All the President's Men will be inevitable. But that was a different era. A different movie. Spotlight is fresh and invigorating in its painfully frustrating subject matter. Audiences should leave with a renewed belief that investigative reporting is of monumental importance and that stories such as the one originating in 2001 Massachusetts are still out there clouded in red tape secrecy and muffled whispers. It is painful to watch at times. Trusted bonds between people, children, parents and the institution that promotes the opposite to what it sometimes preaches are disgusting revelations that are brought to the screen with sizzling effects.
The entire cast from top to bottom is perfectly cast. And McCarthy doesn't populate his frames with unnecessary spectacular visuals. Spotlight is instead very straight forward. Focused and driven.
Spotlight will be nominated for Best Picture and Keaton should get a nod for Actor. Ruffalo may also sneak his way onto ballot sheets. But whether Spotlight wins any hardware is unimportant as long as we recognize the importance of films such as these. A few years ago I would guess that 99% of the population knew nothing about the Iran hostage rescue highlighted in Ben Affleck's Argo. Spotlight should have the same effect acting as a docudrama that is both highly entertaining and educational at the same time. It is both a very good film and an important one.
It takes place in 2001, right when the internet was just starting to replace print journalism as the new way people read their news. As the story opens, we learn that a section of the Boston Globe- the movie's title- is suffering from low ratings and no readers. The new boss that is hired to direct the team asks the Editor of Spotlight, Michael Keaton, how long it will take for the next story to unfold.
"A few months, maybe more." Keaton says casually. This does not make his boss very enthused. The rest of the team, which includes Mark Ruffalo as an eager reporter, and Rachel McAdams as a bland one - begin digging for clues and interviewing victims of the Priests around town. Other people in town refuse to address the topic. Stanley Tucci, who is very good, eventually lets Ruffalo interview a victim who goes into deep detail on how his molestation took place. It's rather uncomfortable to hear, but necessary. McAdams also has interviews like this, and soon everybody wants the story to release. But then September 11th hits and they decide to wait. And wait longer.
While the subject matter of the movie is very interesting, I found the movie to be an uninspiring showcase of events save some strong performances- Ruffalo and Tucci are the best in show. Keaton is okay but nothing to write home about. And Rachel McAdams has NEVER been so dull. Why she's the only one in Oscar consideration is beyond me; her character lacks any personality other then to speak like a dial tone and be the sole female on the team. She can do better than this. But because the script is dominated by male personalities (and screenwriters), what more do you expect?
Is this the Best Picture of 2015? According to many sources, yes. It's the default, safe choice because allegedly voters aren't going to want to crown far more intriguing movies like The Martian, Mad Max, Brooklyn or Room- to name a few titles I found far more exhilarating. It's an okay attempt to tell this important story about a corrupt justice system and of course the Catholic Church in general. But it's stale when it comes to the artistry.
FINAL GRADE: C
However, there's really no character in the movie whom the audience can latch onto. It's a terrific ensemble, but the fault, I think, lies in trying to give everyone in the ensemble an equal part in the story. Without making it about one person (whether a reporter or a victim), the emotional impact falls very, very short.
What the viewer is left with is a general notion of, "It's shocking that went on for so long and the church kept covering it up," but zero emotional investment and reaction. Unless you have a personal identification with any of the elements in this story, I think you will remain similarly aloof in regards to this film.
The scandal herein is the systemic cover-up of pederasty within the Catholic Church. To that end (even though a lot of the dialogue in this movie is come-from-behind startling), one line in particular jumped out at me: "They say it's just physical abuse but it's more than that, this was spiritual abuse. You know why I went along with everything? Because priests are supposed to be the good guys." This isn't just a story about the crimes committed, but there's also sensitivity towards the victims themselves. I dunno, I just found that line deeply unnerving.
But when all is said and done, this movie runs on the grueling nuts-and-bolts detective work of investigative journalism; a uniformly excellent cast, great writing and tension that continues to build.