This is a hard film to watch. Not because of the direction by Tom McCarthy (Win Win, The Station Agent) or the script by Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer (wrote episodes of The West Wing and Fringe) or the acting by the great ensemble cast – Mark Ruffalo (The Avengers, Shutter Island), Michael Keaton (Birdman, Toy Story 3), Rachel McAdams (Sherlock Holmes, Mean Girls), Live Schrieber (from television’s Ray Donovan), Stanley Tucci (The Devil Wears Prada, The Hunger Games), Brian d’Arcy James (from television’s Smash), and John Slattery (from television’s Mad Men). It is because of the subject matter. Tough to stomach. More so because you know that it is a true story. A true story that happened and happens all over the world. Many are complicit…including all of us.
Four journalists, Mike Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), Robby Robinson (Michael Keaton), Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams), and Matt Carroll (Brian d’Arcy James), win a Pulitzer Prize for an investigative story they did for the Boston Globe. The four were known as Spotlight, an investigative team that worked on big stories. The story this time was about the Catholic Church’s cover-up of the molestation of children by priests.
Once a new editor, Marty Baron (Liev Schrieber), arrives on the scene he pitches Robby, the leader of Spotlight, the story. Once Spotlight begins the investigation they realize that the story is bigger than they could have ever thought. Frightenly so. They realize that it goes right up to the top – Cardinal Law (Len Cariou – from television’s Blue Bloods). The Cardinal covered it all up. Besides the difficulty of the subject of the story they also have to wage a battle against the Catholic Church and even others at the paper. Plus no one – the victims, the families or the priests – want to talk about it. It will be a long, uphill battle to get this story published.
As soon as the lights go up and the credits start rolling you cannot move. It is all too heavy. Yet you want to jump up and do something. Be active. Ask questions. Make sure that things like this don’t continue to happen. A good investigative drama can make you feel this way. Spotlight is a great investigative drama. Authentic feeling and well crafted.
What the film does really well is give an inside look at the hard work involved in breaking a story of this magnitude. The day-to-day grind of being an investigative journalist. Despite the fact that the film moves along slowly you are never bored because of the quality of the script, acting and direction. It is kept real and never gets overindulgent at the expense of “action”. And all the actors do a great job. A real team effort with no one coming out as the star.
Uncovering the Truth: A Spotlight Team Roundtable
Spotlight: A Look Inside
The State of Journalism