Cast: Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Stanley Tucci, Live Schreiber
Oscars: 6 nominations, 2 wins (Picture, Original Screenplay)
#2 Critically acclaimed movie of 2015, #13 of the decade so far
Favourite Line: Walter Robinson: “We’ve got two stories here: a story about degenerate clergy, and a story about a bunch of lawyers turning child abuse into a cottage industry. Which story do you want us to write? Because we’re writing one of them.”
Spotlight handles its subject matter with brutal frankness, but at the same time a delicacy and respect for the film’s (and real life) victims that is rare in any kind of movie. Religion-bashing has become fashionable and acceptable and it would have been an easy route for this film to take. Instead, Spotlight understands the difference between the system and the faith.
The movie is a retelling of the true story of how the Boston Globe uncovered and published and damning series of Pulitzer Prize winning articles, outlining systematic abuse in the Boston Archdiocese. How the victims were most often boys; poor, fatherless and vulnerable. The reporters digging into the story are themselves life long Bostonian and mostly Irish-Catholic, so the seismic effect of this story on their own lives, communities and cities is not lost on them.
Liev Schreiber plays Marty Baron, the Executive Editor of the Boston Globe at the time. Spotlight refers to the name of the special investigative team, lead by Walter Robinson (Michael Keaton). The team is assigned to further investigate the sexual assault allegations of six priests in Boston that appear to have been covered up by the church. Baron insist that this is not about an individual, its about “the system”, from the top down, that let it happen.
On the surface, Spotlight is an engaging procedural movie, documenting the research, interviews, court appeals and anonymous tips that lead to the story. On a deeper level, it’s shows the life long effect on the victims, their guilt, anger, needle tracks on their arms, their desire for answers and closure.
The Oscar winning original screenplay by director Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer is as close to perfect as a movie gets. It wastes not a scene or a line. It does not trivialize or sensationalize the subject matter and is singularly focused on the story. It holds company with “All the President’s Men” as one of the great films about investigative journalism. And like “All the President’s Men”, Spotlight is an equally entertaining and important film.
Side note: Michael Keaton achieved the rare feat of having the lead role in back to back best pictures, Birdman in 2014 and Spotlight in 2015. When the real Walter Robinson saw Keaton perform as him, he quipped “To watch Michael Keaton become me on film, makes me want to apologize to many people I have interviewed.