In 2001, The Boston Globe uncovered a massive cover-up of the archdiocese of the Catholic Church in Boston, revealing 90 priests in several parishes were caught molesting children, facing no reparations for it. In 2015, Spotlight comes along to tell the tragic tale. The title Spotlight refers to the investigative journalism part of the Boston Globe, headed by Walter “Robby” Robinson. Some may be confused that Spotlight is about sexual abuse, but it’s every bit about the power of investigative journalism. Without question, Spotlight is the best journalism movie since All The President’s Men and one of the very best films of 2015.
Michael Keaton leads this film and the cast with a phenomenal performance. After Keaton’s incredible performance in “Birdman,” there was a chance that his next role would be a disappointment, but Keaton steps up to the challenge leaving no doubt that he’s big time star. Mark Ruffalo does what Mark Ruffalo does, churning out another fantastic performance as Mike Rezendes, a Spotlight reporter tasked with dealing with the prosecuting attorney, Mitchell Garabedian played by Stanley Tucci. Live Schreiber puts forth a significantly understated performance as The Boston Globe editor Marty Baron. Rachel McAdams rounds out the cast as Sacha Pfeiffer, the Spotlight reporter who had the task of interviewing the most of the sexual abuse victims.
Spotlight director Tom McCarthy had one major hurdle to overcome, creating an authentic newsroom environment, and he nails it. McCarthy gets everything right on the money, from the pressed shirts and pleated khakis worn by Globe male reporters to the process reporters have to go through to pull up old clips. McCarthy creates an environment for the audience that feels as if you’re shoulder to shoulder with Keaton (Walter “Robby” Robinson) and his team as they break the biggest scandal in the history of the Catholic Church. McCarthy and screenwriter Josh Singer revisited how the reporters went about breaking the story and revealed The Boston Globe had an opportunity to break the story in 1993. Cinematographer Masanobu Takayanagi played a huge part in the success of Spotlight. His decision to create a subtle washed out background for the film and his insistence to pull the camera back at times that allowed the actors to play off of each other. It’s Spotlight’s precision, modesty, and restraint that makes this film so refreshing. McCarthy isn’t seeking to mythologize The Boston Globe; rather he takes a disciplined approach that gives the film an honesty, which the audience will appreciate.
McCarthy has made Spotlight an ensemble piece rather than showcasing anyone star in particular. He wanted to ensure we knew this was a team of reporters that were working together to get the story right. Keaton, Ruffalo, and McAdams disappear into their respective roles. Spotlight is more about how the team interacts with one another and making sure they get the story right. If Truth, showed us the dangers of rushing a story, Spotlight shows us how to get a story right (even while fully embracing all the bureaucratic hurdles most journalists deal with on a daily basis).
In the end, Spotlight is a slow, steady burn. McCarthy doesn’t make the mistake of trying to advance the plot too quickly; rather he allows the events to unfold at a realistic pace. By doing this, the audience is allowed to process fully the magnitude of how intricate and horrific the scandal truly was in 2001.
Spotlight is in a class all by itself in 2015, from its brilliant performances to outstanding storytelling. Come February 28, Spotlight is sure to win a few awards.