Spotlight, the special investigative team inside The Boston Globe, are tasked by their new editor Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber) to water test the validity of claims that the Catholic Church had been covering up child molestation rife within their ranks of priests. In a town intrinsically tied to Catholicism, they’re faced with the horrifying truth.
Spotlight is an advertorial for journalistic objectivity and integrity in the face of abject perversion. The best investigative journalism films usually take you on the roller coaster of the excavation of the facts of the story. The deeper you dig the more you get to understand what’s been submerged; not only about the story, but about the people behind the story. The seminal films of this ilk such as All the President’s Men and The Insider – both films are less the revelations of the institutional and corporate greed their characters uncover; instead they focus on the individual trials of the journalists (or sources) tasked with doing whatever it takes to bring their story to the public. Writer Josh Singer and writer/director Tom McCarthy stand their players Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams and Brian d’Arcy James at the foot of the overwhelming tsunami to hold fast; clinical heads are required to prevail.
McCarthy must have tasked his performers with a very specific sandbox to play in. Keaton’s Walter ‘Robby’ Robinson is a journalist with all the contacts, who holds the respect of the power brokers in Boston, lest they want to end up at the mercy of the Spotlight team. He’s an affable guy, who can flick like a light switch into interrogation. After the maniacal frenzy of his performance in Birdman, it’s a great demonstration of his ability to retreat into a much more reasonable and real character. Rachel McAdams, Brian d’Arcy James and John Slattery all give capable, restrained performances that blend into the tapestry of the film. Ruffalo’s tenacious Mike Rezendes is the lynchpin of the Spotlight group. Tasked with diving headlong into the Mitchell Garabedian (Stanley Tucci) lawsuit against the church, and wading through the most difficult accusations. Ruffalo’s performance, constantly holding a lid to a bubbling infuriation makes you feel better in the audience about losing your temper.
Spotlight zigs when you absolutely expect it to zag with characters like editor Live Schrieber’s Marty Baron. From the opening seconds of the film you get the impression that he’s that Up in the Air boss tasked with dismantling the paper for the sake of cutting operating costs and the team will have to battle against the overwhelming odds on two fronts; you don’t. Baron’s an outsider who catches the scent of something that could be pivotal for the people of Boston. Schrieber’s subtle, understated interactions, quietly absorbing and calculating the surest path, are some of his best work.
Spotlight shines in its ability to demonstrate restraint and objectivity when faced with a subject that all but demands otherwise.
Blake Howard – follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman
Directed by: Tom McCarthy
Written by: Josh Singer & Tom McCarthy
Starring: Mark Ruffalo , Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, Brian d’Arcy James, Stanley Tucci, Jamey Sheridan