Some people are saying that Spotlight is the best journalism movie since All The President’s Men. I actually think it’s better.
Spotlight tells the story of the Boston Globe‘s breaking of the story of priest pedophilia and sexual abuse in Boston — a story that helped trigger the worldwide focus on priestly child abuse in the Catholic Church. It’s got all of the elements of the classic film about reporting: the team of tough, hard-bitten reporters and editors, the shoe-leather reporting work of trying to convince reluctant sources to talk, the efforts of powerful people and institutions to bury the story, the tough decisions on when to publish . . . as well as the inevitable footage of the newspapers rolling through the printing presses and being bundled and delivered when the story finally hits the front page. The film is a riveting story of criminal cover-ups and secrecy and dogged reporters finally getting to the truth.
But what really lifts the movie into the realm of greatness, in my view, is the rawness of the story that the reporters were trying to exposed. In a film chock full of terrific performances, some of the most powerful are given by the actors playing the devastated, humiliated, emotionally crippled abuse victims . . . and, interestingly, by the defenders of the Catholic Church struggling to rationalize their unrationalizable efforts to maintaining the silence about terrible, unpardonable criminal conduct. And when the movie comes to its potent final scene, and on the day the story hits the newspaper the investigative reporting team is bombarded with phone calls from victims that reveal that the priestly abuse problem is even more severe than they dreamed, the viewer can’t help by be amazed and sickened that so many people allowed such inexcusable conduct to go on, victimizing new generations of children, for so long. The movie’s message hits like a sledgehammer to the gut.
The script for the movie is terrific, the actors playing the investigative reporting team — Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, and Brian d’Arcy James — are all excellent, and I particularly liked Liev Schreiber as the taciturn new editor who cues the reporters in to the story lurking under their noses and Stanley Tucci as the lawyer for the victims who has no expectations that the Globe will actually tackle the dominant religious institution in town. The finest performances, though, were of the actors playing the emotionally wrecked abuse victims. Their characters shift Spotlight from a traditional fast-paced reporting movie into an emotional powerhouse.
This is a must-see movie.