Most films about the press tend to portray journalists as vultures that feed on the public’s appetite for sensationalism. But there are still plenty of real-life reporters who are only interested in revealing the truth. Tom McCarthy’s new movie, Spotlight, is a powerful drama that tells the true story of a small group of Boston Globe journalists pursuing a decades-long conspiracy to cover-up hundreds of heinous sex crimes within the Catholic Church.
In Boston, few establishments are so powerful. From the neighborhood parish priests to the Cardinal rubbing shoulders with the city’s elite, this institution is deeply woven into the city’s fabric. And though there have been numerous reports of priests sexually abusing children over the years, each incident was quietly swept under the rug.
However in 2001, Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber) became the first Jewish editor of the Globe. And when a class-action lawsuit was filed on behalf of a group of molestation victims, implicating one of Boston’s most prominent men, Cardinal Bernard Law (Len Cariou), Baron turned to the paper’s best reporters to investigate: the Spotlight team. Ultimately, their findings provided key information to unlocking this devastating case.
McCarthy’s previous works (The Visitor, The Station Agent, Win Win) are quirky tales of ordinary life, a repertoire that should have made him an unlikely choice for this complex, dark drama. Yet his thorough style proves to be a perfect match. Clearly inspired by All The President’s Men, he structures his movie on the Globe’s investigation, telling the story in an intimate, unflashy way that allows the drama to build as the team gradually uncovers the tragic details of the case.
Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams and Mark Ruffalo drive this intricate narrative with their nuanced performances. Keaton embodies the tough but introspective leadership of Spotlight’s longtime editor, while Ruffalo vividly captures his character’s righteous passion and McAdams rounds out the group with her delicate yet gritty performance.
Arriving at a moment when newspapers are under enormous economic pressure and many are cutting expensive costs associated with investigative journalism—or simply going out of business—Spotlight is a vivid reminder of the crucial role that a free press plays in our society. It also happens to be one of the year’s most gripping and important films