Review by Paul Preston
The Movie Guys

Newspapers may not be long for this world, but the movie about the newspaper investigation team will always be great, even if they become period pieces.

Spotlight“Spotlight” is such a movie, about a team of journalists who, in 2002, exposed The Catholic Church’s cover-up of wide-spread, in-house child molestation. The Church used money and power to sweep instances under the rug. Boston Globe editor Marty Baron didn’t back down to pressure from the Church, their influential friends or pressure from the “good Catholics” in the Boston area and sent his team from The Globe’s Spotlight news team to investigate the truth.

Any discussion of this film should begin with the actors. First and foremost, it’s welcome news to know that the return of Michael Keaton to prominent roles that started last year with “Birdman” continues with his turn here as veteran journalist “Robby” Robinson. As the vet, Robinson has a number of leads to explore which often include professional relationships and watching Keaton subtly dissect those close to him and those in power to get to the heart of the story is to watch a veteran actor who may be in his prime at 64.

SpotlightOscar nominee Mark Ruffalo brings his best bag of tricks – a quirkiness that is grounded in truth – to lead writer Michael Rezendes. He and Tom Hardy have quickly become my favorite actors. Rachel McAdams (also Oscar-nominated) and Brian D’Arcy James round out the Spotlight team with an equally effective John Slattery as another Globe editor who warns of the dangers of crossing The Church but nonetheless launches the investigation.

Director Tom McCarthy directs this film as if he isn’t there. Don’t expect the flash and style of something like “Se7en”, “Spotlight” (and much has been made of this) more appropriately echoes Alan J. Pakula’s “All The President’s Men”. Both films are stripped-bare of showy filmmaking and rely on performances and, even more so, the real-life events to carry the day, and the viewers interest. There’s no huge speech to remind the viewers that child molestation is bad or a swelling score to punctuate a huge moment of discovery. Refreshingly, the film focuses on the hard-fought, separate-the-truth-from-fiction journalism, reminding me just how hard it is to find ethical journalism in a media over-stuffed with news entertainment (just as professional wrestling is sports entertainment).

SpotlightFourteen years removed from the events of “Spotlight”, the one thing McCarthy’s film is missing is surprise! We all know how the investigation goes down, but even the final scenes sidestep a huge victory dance for the Spotlight team and instead build a foreboding sense that this exposé has only cracked the surface of a truly nefarious and rampant criminal problem in The Catholic Church.

Directed by: Tom McCarthy
Release Date: November 25, 2015
Run Time: 128 Minutes
Country: USA
Rated: R
Distributor: Open Road Films

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