SPOTLIGHT – REVIEW

In 2002, The Boston Globe’s Spotlight team started investigating claims of a widespread cover-up of child molestation offences by the Catholic church. A damning expose and over 600 stories later, they won a Pulitzer Prize for their efforts. Now their search for the truth has been dramatized for the big screen in Spotlight.

So, is it any good?YESThe arrival of a new editor in the Boston Globe offices puts reporters expecting job losses on high alert, but Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber) has a different kind of shake-up in mind. He wants the Spotlight team, lead by Walter “Robby” Robinson (Michael Keaton), to tackle the biggest institution in town, the Catholic Archdiocese and the claims of a decades long cover-up of pedophile priests. The reporters, Michael Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams), and researcher Matt Carroll (Brian d’Arcy James), are themselves Catholic (or lapsed Catholics) and so taking on a pillar of the community is no small task for the foursome. It’s also big deal for a town whose Irish-Catholic roots run deep, and it’s this deep sense of Catholic guilt that infuses every scene of the film.spotlight1As the conspiracy grows and envelopes the various political, social and legal institutions of Boston, the weight of the story shows on everyone. The events themselves are almost too awful to comprehend, the systematic abuse of children by Catholic priests and the church’s willing cover-up of the whole scandal is truly evil, and you get a great sense of justice as you watch the Spotlight team chip away at the truth and bring the survivor’s stories to light. The interviews the team conduct with the survivors really give the story weight, and stop it from seeming to clinical.

If you prefer movies with high octane and explosive action, this isn’t really the one for you. The action here lives in quiet conversations with abuse survivors and enablers alike, taking place in meeting rooms or on the phone. It’s definitely a slow burn, but one that pays off in spades. Tense and thrilling are not normally adjectives that you’d think give to a film whose big “chase scene” revolves around photocopying documents, but that’s exactly what you get from this movie. Never has filing paperwork and taking notes been so consuming as a viewer!Spotlight2The biggest compliment that I can give Spotlight is that it doesn’t try to turn these reporters into heroes, in fact, save for one passionate (and necessary) outburst, the cast refreshingly underplays everything, and each actor is superb in their part. There’s no all-conquering superhero reporter here, just people doing their jobs well. It doesn’t even matter that the events are well-known and the outcome is freely available on Wikipedia for you to find, you’re along for the ride every step of the way.

Brilliantly acted by a true ensemble cast, and solidly scripted and directed by Tom McCarthy, Spotlight is an early highlight for 2016 (although it was released last year in the US), and has rightly featured prominently in the conversation leading up to the Oscars. If your a fan of classics like All The President’s Men, you won’t be disappointed.

SPOTLIGHT is in cinemas now.

 

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