By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
Much like Woodward and Bernstein brought out the truth behind the Watergate scandal, the Boston Globe’s Spotlight team revealed the truth behind the Boston sexual abuse scandal within the Catholic Church. Writer/director Tom McCarthy, who co-wrote with Josh Singer, does an outstanding job recreating these events for cinema and never over-stylizes or creates false drama. The drama and conflicts of the story play out naturally and realistically with the excellent cast reacting superbly to the discovery of some startling and disturbing truths.
In 2001, the reporters for Spotlight, a special section of the Boston Globe, begin a throrough investigation of some serious allegations of sexual abuse by priests of the Boston diocese. Led by Walter “Robby” Robinson (Michael Keaton), Spotlight members Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams), Matt Carroll (Brian D’Arcy James), and Mike Rezendez (Mark Ruffalo) come to the realization that this scandal is much larger than they’re expecting and reveal many years of abuse by multiple priests and the closely guarded cover-ups by the Catholic Church. As the newspaper team digs deeper uncovering some of the major players involved and connecting with the troubled victims, they discover that their careers may also be at stake.
Fans of films like All the President’s Men and journalists will absolutely love this film. McCarthy and Singer go into great detail portraying the investigative journalism experience, showing the thrills and other emotions involved when discovering some disturbing truths and facts. The film does occasionally get bogged down in the procedures and drags at moments because of it, but the peaks certainly outnumber the few valleys. Non-journalists and non-fans of journalism films may get bored with these slower scenes. Personally, I found the thrills, shocks, and human side to the story quite compelling and powerful.
The extraordinary cast all deliver excellent performances, but Mark Ruffalo’s acting in the film really stood out for me. Portraying who is probably the most emotional and perhaps most naive character of the film, the audience can see and feel his reactions to the disturbing facts he discovers during the investigation. While all of the characters do show how they are changed by the experience, Ruffalo’s Resendez character is at the heart of the film expressing the most distress and astonishment with the crimes the church and its predators have gotten away with.
Though this film definitely won’t win any awards for “The feel-good movie of the year,” it is an outstanding piece of cinema that probably will be honored and studied for years. I came close to giving the film my top score, but restrained in that I grew a tad restless during the slower parts. I feel that McCarthy and his editor Tom McArdle could have made a few cuts here and there. Nevertheless, I consider Spotlight to be one of the best films of this year and probably one of the most important ones of the past twenty years.