‘Spotlight’ movie on newspaper’s expose of Catholic child sex abuse a ‘masterpiece’

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Michael Keaton, Billy Crudup, Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams in 'Spotlight.' Photo by Kerry Hayes, Open Road Films.

Michael Keaton, Billy Crudup, Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams in 'Spotlight.' Photo by Kerry Hayes, Open Road Films.

No need to bury the lede: Spotlight is a masterpiece.

Director Tom McCarthy’s drama (**** out of four; rated R; opens Friday in New York, Los Angeles and Boston, nationwide Nov. 20) embraces both great cinema and even better journalism as it chronicles a Boston Globe investigative team’s real-life expose on child abuse by local priests and the Catholic Church cover-up that followed. Not only is it an amazingly crafted movie, it’s an important one as well.

The Globe group won a Pulitzer Prize for its 2002 work, but the real tale begins a year earlier with the arrival of new boss Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber) to the newspaper. He wants to see the Globe dig into some really hefty stuff, like following up on a recent column accusing a priest of sexually molesting dozens of kids over three decades.

Led by editor Robby Robinson (Michael Keaton), the Spotlight team is initially wary of setting aside other projects and taking on the church, a hot-button subject in town and one of the most sacred of cows. Yet reporters Mike Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo) and Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams), with the help of mustached ace researcher Matt Carroll (Brian d’Arcy James), begin to dig into what’s been going on and find victims as well as more damning, shocking evidence.

McCarthy doesn’t show the abuse — instead, he lets those affected convey all the emotion necessary. It’s a tried-and-true horror movie trick: The audience’s imagination take over when court records are released and information comes out in various places, such as Rezendes’ constant pestering of the victims’ lawyer (Stanley Tucci).

The cast is excellent from top to bottom. Ruffalo is fantastic as the jittery Rezendes, who’s like a watchdog with a bone, sniffing out sources and working the phones to piece together the story. Keaton gets into the thick of it, too, as the no-nonsense Robinson, and Schreiber brilliantly exhibits quiet intensity as Baron, a guy who’s not afraid of shaking things up for the sake of good journalism.

Spotlight is undoubtedly this generation’s All the President’s Men, showing the cinematic greatness that can happen when talented actors are paired with a story that needs to be told.

The movie does feel like it comes from another time — even though it takes place just over a decade ago, this kind of old-school shoe-leather reporting doesn’t seem as prevalent as GIF-bedecked stories and heaps of listicles. In that way, it’s a commentary on the way it used be vs. what accounts for journalism today, where open Google tabs outnumber scrawled pages in a reporter’s notebook.

It’s easy to hang on every word of McCarthy and Josh Singer’s crackling script, and Spotlight offers the kind of satisfying ending not seen much anymore. No media hubbub or explosive courtroom scenes — just a job well done, and now on to the next story.


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  • Larry

    “The U.S. Catholic church has incurred nearly $4 billion in costs related to the priest sex abuse crisis during the past 65 years, according to an extensive NCR investigation of media reports, databases and church documents.”

    “For comparison Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, has a net worth of $1.5 billion. He would have to find two other clones from parallel dimensions and all of them would have to liquefy their assets just to cover the Church’s bill for priests abusing kids. And this guy is running a for-profit business, not a church whose leader jets around the world warning people against the evil of love of money.”

  • Judy Jones

    We hope everyone will see the “Spotlight” movie. Tragically these crimes and cover ups within the Catholic church around the world continue to this day.
    Link to times and theaters where Spotlight is showing. http://spotlightmovietheaters.com/

    Judy Jones, SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) 636-433-2511. snapjudy@gmail.com,

  • Michael Glass

    The problem of sexual abuse of children is not only confined to the Catholic Church in the United States. The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Australia has uncovered exactly the same problems in churches, schools and charities, both secular and religious.

  • The Globe “exposed” little. The National Catholic Reporter was on it in the early 1980s, followed closely by the San Jose Mercury News. Education Week exposed sex abuse in public schools but the major league media pretty well ignored it. How do I know? I read “Philips Code: No News is Good News – to a Killer.” Opened my eyes. The media is covering up the public school abuse. Newspapers should be named “The Daily Double Standard, Conduit and Shill.” Lots of mergers.

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  • Ihave only one question. The Priests are supposed to be “sent” by Jesus. The pedophile priests are removed from the church. I get that also. So I am to believe these priests were not Heaven sent. OK I get that.. What about all the confessions of sin from the parishioners. If they confessed to what was for a better word.fake priests then are their sins unforgiven? Seems unlikely a pedophile could forgive sins.

  • Larry

    DPierre, 4 billion paid out in restitution in the US alone makes your statement ridiculous. If the abuse scandal was somehow overblown or fictitious they would not have paid so much money out to keep things out of court.

    wlydecker, your attempt to show public schools as a worse offender (which some how absolves the Catholic Church how?) is reprehensible dishonest garbage. Public schools haven’t been systematically shielding sex offenders from prosecution or their assets from lawsuits to protect yourself.

  • DrRosemaryEileenMcHugh,MD,MSpir

    Thankyou for this excellent review of the movie “Spotlight” about clergy sexual abuse and cover-up by the pope and bishops of the Catholic Church. I am a physician. I have met many who have been sexually abused by priests. As a Chicagoan who recently moved South, I know that it is still happening in the U.S., when the Church thinks it can get away with it. There will be no credibility of the pope or bishops unless the police take control of all investigations of all allegations. The Church cannot be allowed to be in charge of investigating the crimes and criminals of the Church. The Church cannot be trusted. It is known that Pope Francis protected predator priests and refused to meet with the victims when he was archbishop in Argentina, according to bishop accountability, a trustworthy website for truth. I believe the pope’s commission is a sham to make it look like something is being done. Thanks to SNAP the truth is becoming known.
    Sincerely, Dr Rosemary Eileen McHugh, MD,…

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