Spotlight

This right here is a very, very important film.
★★★★
Movie Review #1,042

spotlight

Open Road Films
Biography, Drama, History, Thriller
2 hours, 8 minutes
Rated R (some language including sexual references)
Released November 25, 2015
Directed by Tom McCarthy
Written by Josh Singer & Tom McCarthy
Starring Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, Brian d’Arcy James, Stanley Tucci, Elena Wohl, Jamey Sheridan, and Billy Crudup

“If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to abuse one.” – Mitchell Garabedian (Stanley Tucci in “Spotlight”)

The Spotlight team consisted of only a handful of investigative journalists, all of whom belonged to the Boston Globe.  Their landmark stories were both insightful and controversial.  The investigation involved, however, generally amounted to a year, if not more.  In 2001, Spotlight took on their most challenging topic yet, concerning the molestations of children by Catholic Priests in Boston.  At first, the team finds that there were 13 such priests, a number that itself is extremely shocking.  Soon enough, there’s evidence suggesting that roughly 90 priests had molested children in Boston alone.  There’s two main factors plaguing Spotlight’s investigation.  One is the time restraint, brought on by a very short statute of limitations for the crime.  The other is the power the Catholic Church has in covering up all of these incidents.

“Spotlight” could have easily been crafted as a stage drama.  It’s just as effective, if not more, as a film.  The script alone, written by director Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer, is proof enough that what “12 Angry Men” was for the courtroom, this is for investigative journalism.  The film is smart, intense, and carries an immensely engrossing atmosphere.  We’re transported to the scene of a Boston that isn’t glamorized one bit.  You can close the eyes and you’ll even hear the markedly imperfect aura of the city.

This is an exceptionally natural, realistic drama.  That’s due in part to the performances here.  Here we have one of the finest casts all year, and that’s even without considering the three actors who practically tower over the rest of the ensemble: Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, and (most especially) Michael Keaton, whose last two films have proven to be a wildly unexpected double-hitter for him.  Thanks to the editing by Tom McArdle, “Spotlight” flies through its story at a sharp pace, heightening the excitement of the story.  Independent cinema has once again proven unmistakably that you don’t need guns or chase scenes to craft an absolutely thrilling and captivating drama.  In the case of “Spotlight”, there’s not a dull moment in the entire film.

You know the phrase, “Just the facts?”  Well, here, the facts are plentiful, and they’re not always pleasant.  “Spotlight” quite unflinchingly sees the issue in its story from all sides and angles.  The many interview scenes shown here are a melange of 60 Minutes and a TV crime procedural.  The explicit level of detail we watch the victims relay is absolutely disturbing, and yet director Tom McCarthy keeps us wanting to know more.  I will be honest: I hadn’t heard of McCarthy before “Spotlight”, but my gosh, what a director he is.  At a certain point, I’d forgotten I was watching a movie.  Suddenly, everything felt real, and that’s damn good, because the film quite vividly reflects a harsh reality that we don’t often enough consider.  It’s a very important film.  I will admit, though, it was probably a mistake to watch it on a Sunday.

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