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.
LM END TRUITT