Film review: Spotlight

Spotlight charts the true story of how the investigative unit of The Boston Globe uncovered the widespread and systemic abuse of children by Roman Catholic priests in the Boston area. After a year-long investigation, the first of numerous newspaper reports was published by The Globe in January 2002, sparking similar revelations worldwide… 


The new editor of The Boston Globe suggests that the Spotlight team set aside their current project to focus on allegations of abuse by priests. Although reaction to this is mixed, it is not long before the team uncover more evidence. We are shown frank and often moving testimonies by victims. These interviews, along with the ongoing investigations, reveal how the priests had been successful in taking advantage of the trust placed in them and the methods employed to cover up these activities.

The film is a biographical drama, with a heavy emphasis from the start on the ‘biographical’ part. As such the film is a triumph, as everything looks, sounds and feels real. There are several reasons for this – one being the offices of The Boston Globe were recreated in meticulous detail. Actors Michael Keaton and Mark Ruffalo in particular spent many hours with the real-life reporters they were portraying to perfect their characters. And of course there is the absolutely wonderful script, which in the hands of one of the finest ensemble casts you could wish to see, results in an experience that is simply truthful story telling.

In repertory theatre, or a long-running television series, a group of actors can become so attuned to each other over time that the resulting performances become transcendent. This is very hard to achieve in the movies, such is the stop-start nature of the filming process. However, director Tom McCarthy facilitates perfectly observed and executed performances from literally every actor in the film.

The Academy decided to nominate two of the cast in the ‘supporting’ categories as there is no real lead character. Rachel McAdams as Sacha Pfeiffer is at her best in the film during the interview scenes, where she demonstrates great subtlety and poise. Mark Ruffalo – nominated for ‘best supporting actor’ as Michael Rezendes is the throbbing carotid artery of this film. His passion drives this movie forward and is particularly effective as we close in on the publishing deadline. Although, his scenes with the magnificent Stanley Tucci as Mitchell Garabedian which are the most memorable of the film, as the character of Rezendes artfully tries to get Garabedian onboard in exposing the truth. Michael Keaton as Walter ‘Robby’ Robinson manages to deliver comic nuance amidst the serious drama to brilliant effect and Liev Schreiber as Globe editor Marty Baron delivers a performance of frankly astonishing restraint.

The film is simply story, setting, script and actors. This ensemble tour-de-force of a brilliantly paced drama is the product of nothing else. No ten minutes of end credits here as the visual effects team were not required. The issue of child abuse by those in a position of trust has dogged our news particularly over the past three years, sparked by the high-profile Operation Yewtree. Surely a film that further highlights the issue can only help raise awareness.

It is by a country mile the best newspaper or investigative journalism movie since ‘All The President’s Men’ in 1976 and has justifiably also received Academy Award nominations for Best Picture and for that amazing original screenplay.

I loved this film. A must-watch.






Author – Simon, Norwich store