Telling the story of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Boston Globe reporters whose 2001 investigation broke through the systemic cover-up of Catholic priests sexually abusing kids and being shuttled around to different parishes for protection is not an easy gamble. Ultra-sensitive material and a tendency for stories like this to glamorize the job over the story happen all the time. Not here. Spotlight is explosive; a master work of thoughtful subtlety and the best film from actor/director Tom McCarthy (The Visitor, The Station Agent). It features a powerhouse cast that includes Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Liev Schreiber, Rachel McAdams, Brian d’Arcy James and John Slattery and there isn’t a misstep among them. Even the casting of the small or single-scene parts are spot on. Ruffalo’s George Clooney-esque Caesar haircut, clipped speaking and nervous fidgeting works fantastically against Michael Keaton’s reserved, senior team leader.
Sometimes when a film presents its protagonists and antagonists in a David vs. Goliath scenario it embraces the protagonists so thoroughly and heroically that it can overshadow what’s actually being fought about. That doesn’t happen in Spotlight. The scrappy reporters aren’t given a victory lap or a story that’s really about their success. To quote the film, they’re “just doing their job.” It’s an interesting contrast to the other big journalism movie to hit this fall, Truth. That film (which I liked quite a bit) fetishizes journalists just a bit too much for its own good and tips its hand.
Spotlight is a film that serves the story. It’s unfettered filmmaking that is direct and honest and amazingly refreshing in its focus and one of the best films of the year.