Spotlight, rated R
This powerful film is directed by Tom McCarthy and co-written by Josh Singer and McCarthy (who has an Oscar nomination for writing Up), and is about the Spotlight team from the Boston Globe. They are an investigative reporting arm of the Globe who won a Pulitzer Prize for reporting on the Roman Catholic Church’s cover-up of the sexual abuse of children by priests in Boston. The film opens with a brief scene from 1976 where we see a priest being whisked away in a long black car. The film then fast forwards to 2001 when Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber), who is Jewish, becomes the new editor of the Globe in the predominantly Catholic city. He asks Water “Robby” Robinson” (Michael Keaton, in his follow-up to his Oscar nominated performance in 2014’s Birdman), the editor of the Spotlight team, to look into the archdiocese’s handling of child abuse cases.
Robinson’s excellent Spotlight team consists of Michael Rezendes (two-time Oscar nominee Mark Ruffalo in another Oscar worthy performance), Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams), and Matt Carroll (Brian d’Arcy James). They are fully committed to this story, to the point that they don’t really have any personal lives. But this story is not just about a few priests, or even 87 priests who have abused children, but an entire church organization/system led by Cardinal Law (Len Cariou). That’s why Baron pushes Globe Managing Deputy Editor Ben Bradley Jr. (John Slattery), Robinson and the Spotlight team – to pursue and prove Cardinal Law’s knowledge and cover-up of the abuse.
Along the way we meet a few of the abuse victims and their recollections which are at times graphic and always heartbreaking. We also meet attorneys on both sides of the issue Eric Macleish (Billy Crudup) and Mitchell Garabedian (Oscar nominee Stanley Tucci) who are aware of what has been going on. Jim Sullivan (Jamey Sheridan) and Pete Conley (Paul Guilfoyle) are part of the church machine that strongly encourages Robinson to look the other way. We are told of the significant power the Catholic Church has in Boston including the close relationship the church has with the legal, law enforcement and media, highlighted by an uncomfortable “meet and greet” Cardinal Law has with Baron.
What makes this film significant is the story – the cover-up that the Globe successfully exposed in more than 600 stories. What makes the film great are the strong acting performances, led by Ruffalo. McCarthy’s direction and the excellent script from McCarthy and Singer keeps things moving and I found myself emotionally pulled into the story and injustice that had been allowed to go on. Along the way we see what the abuse and cover-up does to the Catholic faith of Rezendes and Pfeiffer.
The film ends with a list of the cities in the world in which significant abuse has been uncovered, including one 45 minutes from my home.
The film is rated “R” for adult language and the subject matter of sexual abuse of children. It is quite simply one of the best films of 2015.