Rachel McAdams, Michael Keaton and Mark Ruffalo in Spotlight

Spotlight (5/5)

SOMETIMES you just want to stand up and applaud a movie. Spotlight is one of them.

It tells the true story of the investigations team at the Boston Globe newspaper – the US city’s renowned rag – who took on the Catholic church over its endemic sexual abuse of young children.

We find the Globe at the twilight of the glory days of print journalism, before broadband was in every home and a smartphone in every pocket (the first story ran in January 2002).

Paper editor Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber) is barely through the door but already asking questions about the lack of a thorough investigation into reports of priests abusing children. Spotlight lead Walter Robinson (Michael Keaton) and his team – including reporters Mike Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo) and Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams) – get on to it sharpish.  In the process they uncover a story that reaches further than they could have imagined and tells some difficult home truths about us all.

The tone of this movie is the stuff Oscars are made of, and indeed the film has been nominated in the Best Picture category. Writers Josh Singer (The West Wing, The Fifth Estate) and Tom McCarthy (Up) make the viewer feel like we’re part of the team uncovering the story.

They paint a picture of journalists not as the scum of the earth types popularly portrayed, but as ordinary, moral, determined and intelligent truth-tellers who can change the world. 

McCarthy, who also directs, barely puts an oversized computer monitor out of place (you remember those, the kind you had to manually irradiate). While elements of the story have undoubtedly been fictionalised to provide added drama, it’s the process of uncovering each new piece of information that provides the thrill.

Both Ruffalo and McAdams have been given the Oscar nod for their supporting roles here. Ruffalo’s character is instantly likeable and has a work ethic like a plough horse. McAdams plays a similar role to the one she had in State of Play but here brings a natural, quiet empathy while still holding her own in the macho environment.

As you might imagine from the topic it’s not always easy viewing, but never gets to a point where you want to turn your head in disgust. That said, if you can make it through without cursing the church at least once then you’re not watching it right.

Final word: A worthy candidate for the Best Picture Oscar. And we think the team might be clutching the little gold statue on the night. (Editor’s Note – Yep, they sure did! Spotlight won Best Picture at the Oscars 2016. Congratulations to all involved in the making of this remarkable movie).

If you liked Spotlight you should also watch:

  • State of Play
  • All The President’s Men
  • The Fifth Estate

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