Written by Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy
Directed by Tom McCarthy
The place where we are supposed to feel the safest hides an unfathomable secret. In Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight, a team of Boston Globe reporters must uncover what the Catholic Church wants no one to know. For years, the Catholic Church covered up a sex abuse scandal that wasn’t just concerned with a few bad eggs, but was indicative of the entire system. Billions of church-goers around the world had their faith tested when it was revealed, and McCarthy depicts the story’s break by utilizing a great ensemble and sharp direction to create one of the finest journalism features in years.
Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber) came to the Boston Globe as the new editor in 2001. Here was a young Jewish man — who doesn’t like baseball, let alone the Boston Red Sox — taking over the paper. He saw a pattern in a few different articles from the Globe regarding Catholic priests sexually abusing minors. The stories “only” seemed to cover a few priests here or there, but it was certainly worth looking into. He gave the job over to the paper’s investigative team, “Spotlight”. This group of individuals were tasked with thorough investigations, often taking months, to discover the secrets within the Catholic Church. Concurrently, The Boston Globe had secrets of its own that played a part in why it took so long to unravel the crimes.
The Boston Globe Spotlight team consisted of some the best the paper had to offer. Spotlight editor Walter “Robby” Robinson (Michael Keaton) and reporters Michael Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams), and Matty Carroll (Brian d’Arcy James) are the main characters of the story, while attorneys Mitchell Garabedian (Stanley Tucci) and Eric MacLeish (Billy Crudup) provide many of the clues. While there are plenty of players to juggle, there’s never a dull moment in Spotlight, thanks to some perfect pacing. Even if you know the outcome of the case, Spotlight delves into the darkness without resorting to fake dramatic scenes or a manipulative soundtrack. In fact, some of the best sequences are watching the reporters complete the most menial tasks as they try to find the secrets of the Catholic Church.
It doesn’t hurt that many of the actors turn in phenomenal performances, with Keaton and Ruffalo leading the pack. Keaton continues his revival back into the mainstream after last year’s successful Birdman, coming across as a leader who is at once restrained, but also tough as nails. Ruffalo, in particular, has some of the best lines in the film. His character could be considered the lead as the story follows his attempt to unseal protected documents and comes face to face with many of the victims.
As a film concerning a sex abuse scandal, Spotlight is delivered with great, welcome sensitivity. While the cinematic depictions of the abuse are frightening and horrifying, McCarthy never goes as far as to actually show the abuse taking place. Perhaps even scarier is the way he films the Catholic Church as an omnipresent being, always watching the events unfold. Whether it is from the countless victims still believing in their faith with rosaries around their necks, or a church establishment looming in the background, Boston seems unable to escape the institution.
How do you disprove the Catholic Church? Even with stone cold evidence it is hard to sway those who have faith. The victims of abuse were led to believe that they were being asked to do these deeds as a request from God. Thankfully, Spotlight builds the case against the church and reveals the abuse scandal that rocked the world. It is a story that shouldn’t be forgotten, and with fantastic performances and direction, Spotlight is both one of the year’s best films and a worthy follower in the footsteps of works like All the President’s Men.