Starring: Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton and Rachel McAdams
Directed by: Tom McCarthy
Running time: 2 hours 8 mins
Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars
Boston. 1976. In a small police station we overhear a woman speaking with a man. In another room sits a priest. A young rookie remarks to his sergeant that what has happened will be hard to keep quiet. The senior officer remarks it won’t be a problem…no one will find out. “What about the arraignment,” the rookie asks? “What arraignment?”
A powerful look at how a team of reporters from the Boston Globe took on the Catholic Church in 2001, “Spotlight” is not only gripping but a great introduction to Journalism 101, making it easily the best “newspaper” film since “All the President’s Men.”
The story jumps to 2001, where new editor Marty Baron (Liev Schrieber) is brought to the newspaper from Miami to jump-start the paper’s performance. With fewer people turning to the paper for their news, and the Internet taking away a lot of the advertising dollars, it’s important to have a paper that people want to read. Among the various departments is the small, investigative unit known as SPOTLIGHT. Overseen by Walter “Robby” Robinson (Keaton), the unit is made up of a few reporters who often spend months investigating a single story. While working on an issue with the police department they are alerted to a story alleging rampant abuse of children by a local priest. Intrigued they begin investigating, slowly uncovering victims and learning that higher members of the Church conspired to keep things quiet. In order to get some necessary court documents they suggest going to court. The outrage is almost universal – “you’re going to SUE the CHURCH???”
Co-written by director McCarthy and Josh Singer (“The Fifth Estate”), the film, like the actual investigation, reveals secrets little by little, keeping you fully engrossed in the story. The script is helped by an amazing cast. Ruffalo seems to be Oscar-nomination bound here, and Keaton is equally strong. Supporting players, from McAdams to John Slattery to Len Cariou, also excel. Stanley Tucci does well as a rather un-orthodox attorney while Brian d’Arcy James rounds out the pack of reporters. Heck, even the smaller roles deserve a shout out. If there were an Oscar for ensemble work this film would grab it. Put it all together and “Spotlight” is one of the year’s best films!