Review: Spotlight

The truth will set you free

It’s hard to remember how we lived in the days before the internet. Before 9/11. Before every piece of information we wanted was made available in our back pocket. As an unfortunate consequence of this, nowadays the importance of newspaper publications (actually print media in general) has diminished. Then comes a film like Spotlight, which serves as visual text as to why this trend should no longer continue. Good, deep journalism still has a place in the modern age and is fighting for relevancy in the frenzied media cycle.

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The spotlight team from left to right: Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo, Brian d’Arcy James, Michael Keaton, and John Slattery

Spotlight tells the true story of the eponymous “spotlight” investigative team from the Boston Globe, who in the early 2000s, uncovered a history of child sex abuse scandals within the Catholic Church in the greater Massachusetts area, and subsequent patterns to cover them up. Spurred on by the arrival of their new editor (Liev Schreiber), the spotlight team takes on a case that’s scope is larger than they originally thought. Eventually questions are asked, court documents are unsealed, and victims are interviewed. Spotlight is not a flashy film by any means. It wastes no time with side plots, emotional tangents, romantic conquests or the like. Director Thomas McCarthy has fashioned a taut, good ol’ journalism piece – on par with the likes of All the President’s Men and The Insider.

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Michael Keaton as Walter “Robby” Robinson and Mark Ruffalo as Michael Rezendes

This economy of narrative makes for fascinating viewing. Little is invested in the world outside of the investigation so it’s easy to hyper-focus on the details and nuances of the case. Aiding this swift storytelling choice are the top-notch performances on screen. The principal cast all showed up to play, so to speak, and even the supporting cast is peppered with gems from Stanley Tucci and Billy Crudup. This ensemble is formidable and undeniable. Michael Keaton (coming off of his resurgence from last year’s Birdman) continues his winning streak and Mark Ruffalo looks like he’s not even trying – and I mean that in the highest regard. There’s something so natural and effortless in his portrayal of real people that he exudes warmth. Even Rachel McAdams is strong here, displaying true compassion and tenderness when interviewing her subjects. She hasn’t been this good since 2014’s A Most Wanted Man.

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Rachel McAdams as Sacha Pfeiffer and Brian d’Arcy James as Matt Carroll (far right)

As with any uncovering of a tragic story, there are no real winners and losers…only survivors. Spotlight is wholly reverent to this fact, and doesn’t aim to demonize those involved or take down the Church as an institution. In fact, the leaders of the Catholic Church have responded favorably to the film and praised its commitment to the truth. What Spotlight ultimately sets out to do is remind us of the tremendous impact a group of dedicated journalists can have on the world and how no truth should remain hidden.

A clear and focused narrative with stellar performances across the board ensure Spotlight will be considered for some serious hardware this awards season: 4/4

★★★★

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