Running time 2hr 8mins
IN 2002, seismic revelations that shook the Catholic church to its core were published in the US by the Boston Globe. Its investigative reporting team – a confidential four-person squad known as Spotlight – had investigated and blown the lid off widespread child abuse within the institution. But, more than that, its probing also revealed a scandalous cover up.
Tom McCarthy’s film dramatises the journalistic effort to inquire into the allegations. In approaching it in this way, it also offers a commentary on the importance of proper journalism (in particular, local journalism) in an age of internet click bait.
Like Zodiac and to some extent State of Play before it, tackling the subject matter from this angle allows the director to shine a light on the role journalists play. Here, where the authorities and long-established organisations are called into question, Spotlight asserts that we need a system we can rely on to uncover truth. That system is a moral, ethical and principled free press populated by journalists with integrity, afforded the time and investment to investigate this kind of scandal.
It also shows what a difference four outwardly ordinary human beings can make through a dogged pursuit of truth and justice.
In the film’s favour, it stays focussed on facts without straying too far into the lives of its main characters and becoming unbalanced, diluting its messages and story in the process. It gives us just enough to let us know they’re three-dimensional without getting bogged down weaving unnecessary dramatic subplots.
Its cast – Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo and Brian d’Arcy James – put in laudably selfless performances free of vanity, letting the subject matter pack its inevitable punch. Combined with matter-of-fact yet emotional fictionalised accounts from some of the victims, Spotlight proves you don’t need melodrama to make a huge impact. It’s economical in its storytelling, bravely and powerfully exploring the far-reaching effects of abuse.
As you watch, you can’t quite believe what’s unravelling. Whether you’re aware of the real-life outrage or not, this formidable, sensitive, weighty and important film needs to be seen.