written by Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer
directed by Tom McCarthy
In early 2002, a group of investigative reporters from the Boston Globe published a scathing indictment of the Roman Catholic Church and its history of child sex abuse in the Boston area. The investigation revealed a systemic pattern of physical and emotional assault by priests all over the United States (and later Ireland, Australia, and Canada), and a major cover-up effort by the Church. It was a nationwide scandal that perforated the moral standing of one of the most powerful institutions in the world, shaking the faith of millions of believers and prompting talks of reformation. The story eventually earned the Globe a Pulitzer Prize.
Spotlight is the story of how the investigation started and became much bigger than the reporters ever anticipated. It’s directed in a low-key style by Tom McCarthy (himself great as a morally compromised newsman in the last season of The Wire) that emphasizes talk over stylistic flourishes, and powered by great performances by an all-star cast, including Mark Ruffalo as hyperactive journalist Michael Rezendes and Live Schreiber as cerebral editor Martin Baron. Better yet, it’s decidedly old-school in the way it generates suspense: Watching people read and think, stuck in libraries gathering facts, fighting bureaucratic processes in order to uncover evidence.
In the end, Spotlight has a bigger case to make beyond documenting the efforts to expose the conspiracy, and that is the sheer importance of journalism, of using research, logic and the power of words as a vehicle for justice. In an era where newspapers and magazines are mutating with the rise of social media, blogs, and pro-am networks, it will be interesting to see how – and if – the press can evolve. Spotlight may not be as good as All the President’s Men (1976) or State of Play (2003), but in this day and age, perhaps it’s something more: A rally for reason.
Carlos I. Cuevas