Spotlight (2015)

Spotlight (2015)
  • Time: 126 min
  • Genre: Biography | Drama | History
  • Director: Thomas McCarthy
  • Cast: Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Liev Schreiber, Stanley Tucci


Starring Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, Brian d’Arcy James and Stanley Tucci, Spotlight tells the riveting true story of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Boston Globe investigation that would rock the city and cause a crisis in one of the world’s oldest and most trusted institutions. When the newspaper’s tenacious “Spotlight” team of reporters delves into allegations of abuse in the Catholic Church, their year-long investigation uncovers a decades-long cover-up at the highest levels of Boston’s religious, legal, and government establishment, touching off a wave of revelations around the world. Directed by Academy Award-nominee Tom McCarthy, Spotlight is a tense investigative dramatic-thriller, tracing the steps to one of the biggest cover-ups in modern times.


  • (Rating: ☆☆☆☆ out of 4)

    This film is highly recommended.

    In brief: This powerful yet restrained exposé of the sexual crimes against children should be required viewing by all.

    GRADE: A-

    Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight takes its laser-sharp aim at the Catholic Church and its extensive cover-up of many pedophile acts by its priests against hundreds of child victims throughout the world. The film focuses in on the beginnings of these cases, going back to 1976, and depicts the investigative research and reporting that finally exposed these heinous crimes.

    We immediately are drawn to a group of top-notch columnists at the Boston Globe as they begin to follow some leads and theories into certain alleged acts that have been overlooked by many parishioners and various institutions throughout the city, including the newspaper itself. The film is a riveting behind-the-scenes look at this story and it thoroughly captures the ennui and the sense of passion and discovery that goes into the job of a reporter brilliantly, with its subtle touches of paper-shrouded desktops and tight cubicles littered with post-notes and family photographs.

    Based on the true events, the film is interested in reporting the facts of the long research-extensive process and its impact on the investigative team called Spotlight, a team that will later go on to win a Pulitzer Prize for its exposé. The acting is wonderful, one of the strongest ensembles this year. Mark Ruffalo plays the overworked lead reporter, Michael Rezendes, and he shows the characters’ inner strength and stamina with a performance that understates the horror he sees as he talks to the various victims and fights for their cause. Rachel McAdams delivers one of her finest roles as Sacha Pfeiffer, a lapse Catholic. Her scene where she interviews a suspected priest is particularly memorable in its matter-of-fact conversation. Brian d’Arcy James as Matt Carroll, the third reporter on the team, brings the physical outrage front and center. Adding yeomanlike support are Liev Schreiber and John Slattery as the editors who helped to break the story, and Stanley Tucci as Mitchell Garabedian, an obsessed lawyer fighting for his young clients’ rights. All are splendid, as are Jamey Sheridan, Billy Crudup, Neil Huff, and Len Cariou as the unethical Cardinal Law.

    But it is Micheal Keaton who is the standout in his supporting turn as Walter “Robby” Robinson, the chief editor of the Spotlight team. The actor layers his character with an underlining grace and intelligence. He interprets this role by playing Robby as a soft-spoken observer and hardened professional and it is such a nuanced and completely believable performance. The character leads the team on its steady course amid subtle threats and allegations and Keaton leads and centers the other actors around his unshowy portrayal. One hopes that his work he will not go unnoticed during award season.

    The director, who also wrote the screenplay along with Josh Singer, uses his narrative skills masterfully. The film relies heavily on its insightful dialog and well-defined characters. Much of the film is talk with very little action, but the story itself is thoroughly engrossing. McCathy also uses strong imagery to reinforce his film, with scenes of the massive Catholic churches dwarfing and overshadowing the smaller houses and playgrounds within the city to maximum effect (Kudos to Masanobu Takayanagi‘s cinematography, Howard Shore’s non-intrusive music score, and Tom McArdle’s effective editing.)

    The film shies away from lurid details and is, at times, too restrained than needed. It sidesteps any real melodrama and resists the urge to manipulate its audience and toy with their emotions. Rather, it fully encompasses the scandal in a by-the book approach to its subject, a clinical remote approach, and lets the moviegoer learn more and more about the cases as the evidence is slowly revealed. In fact, the only emotional tirade comes from the lead reporter only once in the film, literally about the sins of the Fathers. There is no other hysterical outbursts or angry speeches, no sound and fury in telling this tale, just an objective and powerful retelling of the awful truth that we normally try to avoid.

    Spotlight uncovers the truths and tells its story in a honest and gripping way. It’s just the facts you see up there on the screen, no matter how ugly the truth may be. Go see this film, it’s one of the year’s best.

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  • Spotlight opens on a closure and ends on an opening. Shining light on the shadows is the film’s purpose and thrust. In the pre-title scene a child-molesting priest escapes exposure, arraignment and suppression by being transferred to another diocese. Cardinal Law protects his predators instead of the child victims. Church and police conspire to cover up the crime — and repeat it. In the last scene the Boston Globe’s Spotlight investigating team is flooded with calls from other victims, encouraged by the paper’s exposure of the church.
    This film serves several functions very well. At its most literal it provides a thorough analysis of the Catholic church’s scandalous record of child abuse and protecting the abusers. We learn with the journalists what the priests did, about the helpless on whom they preyed, how the system created the predation and then perpetuated it, how the putative celibacy requirement encouraged it. The information this film delivers — all in densely scripted dialogue and brisk, compelling scenes — would fill a comprehensive study. A post-credit series of titles lists the global replays of this Boston story. What had been conventionally passed off as “a few bad apples” proves a.massive criminality and corruption.
    The film’s most bitter irony: when Cardinal Law resigns in shame for having transferred his abusive priests to other parishes, he is himself promoted to an important sinecure in the Vatican. Don’t tell me Jesus didn’t weep.
    The film also celebrates another endangered institution, investigative journalism. Several scenes of the mechanics of journalism — the meetings, the interviews, the library research, the filing system, the whirring presses, the delivery trucks — evoke a tradition of journalism films. Democracy needs independent investigative journalism as a check on the powers that conspire for their own purposes. And that’s the very first cut that surviving papers make to trim their expenses to fend off internet competition.
    The film’s broader target is that wider complicity of evil. As one character remarks, if it takes a village to raise a child it takes a village to abuse one. Of course many people knew what the priests were doing and turned a blind eye — which is not the other cheek Jesus advised. Some of the best scenes show oily respectable citizens, civic leaders, churchgoing pillars of the community, tacitly colluding to hide the horror. It takes two outsiders — the Jewish editor and the Armenian lawyer — to discover the evil that the lapsed Catholic reporters track down. Indeed, even more appalling than the priests’ transgressions are the good citizens who enable and protect it.
    The film’s ultimate target, beyond the church, is any institution that preserves itself by living with evil instead of fighting it. The villain here, in addition to the Catholic Church, is also the Globe that five years earlier missed the story, the police, college alumni and business community that let innocent children suffer rather than embarrass the institution.
    This film is so densely scripted and shot that incidental phrases accrue potent pertinence, like “Fifty fuckin’ priests” and “holy shit.” A sign on the printing press enjoins both the printers and the journalists, plus anyone who values a humane responsible society: “Stay clear.”

  • The definition of pornography provided by Merriam-Webster is the following: “the depiction of erotic behavior (as in pictures or writing) intended to cause sexual excitement”. There have been many films on the art of journalism over the years such as Kill the Messenger, Nightcrawler, and The Soloist and some that have recently hit theaters. But those films were not able to do what Spotlight was able to do and that was join the ranks of All the President’s Men and Citizen Kane by making journalism pornography mine all the sexual stuff.

    SPOTLIGHT tells the riveting true story of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Boston Globe investigation that would rock the city and cause a crisis in one of the world’s oldest and most trusted institutions. When the newspaper’s tenacious “Spotlight” team of reporters delves into allegations of abuse in the Catholic Church, their year-long investigation uncovers a decades-long cover-up at the highest levels of Boston’s religious, legal, and government establishment, touching off a wave of revelations around the world. Directed by Academy Award-nominee Tom McCarthy, SPOTLIGHT is a tense investigative dramatic-thriller, tracing the steps to one of the biggest cover-ups in modern times.

    Directors tend to give an environment that Hollywood touch just to avoid a boring, plain background. Director Tom McCarthy completely avoids giving Spotlight that Hollywood touch and the result is a convincing immersive diegesis. From the newsroom ritual to the starched outfits worn by the reporters, McCarthy brings us in the world of the Boston Globe in a righteous way that he does not need to worry about the Spotlight team getting on his case.

    What makes Spotlight special is the real-life investigation that went into making the film. McCarthy and screenwriter Josh Singer did their own research while making the film. Not only did this help them recreate the Spotlight team’s investigation onto the big screen but they were able to add to the investigation itself as they found out that the Boston Globe had a chance to exploit this story all the way back in 1993.

    No doubt the story that Spotlight tells is an important one and that makes me appreciate McCarthy not making this film about his stars. The film stars Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Live Schreiber, Rachel McAdams and Brian d’Arcy James and they all take a step away from the spotlight and focus on bringing this story to life. Spotlight makes a strong case for the Academy to add a Best Ensemble category because Spotlight is surely the frontrunner.

    Director Tom McCarthy’s approach to this film is what makes it as great as it is. There are so many moments that he could have dragged out just for the use of melodrama but McCarthy refused to lose himself in all the turmoil and presented the tragedy for what it is.

  • “I wanna keep digging” quips the character of Walter Robinson (Michael Keaton), a well respected reporter at Beantown’s most heralded newspaper. What can I say, I “dug” all 128 minutes of the vehicle I’m about to review.

    Anyway, for all Academy Award purposes and historical insight, Spotlight is the quintessential best picture nominee. It’s secure, by the book filmmaking and that doesn’t hurt it in any way. 1976 had All the President’s Men, 1981 had Absence of Malice, 2007 had Zodiac, and now 2015 brings us “Light”. All these films have one thing in common. They are dialogue-driven, feed off paranoia, and resound in crowded newsrooms. “Nose goes” gets a nose for the news. Natch!

    Taking place in the early 2000’s and helmed by director Tom McCarthy, Spotlight moves along like a jack rabbit. Yeah this flick is talky but it never comes off as insipid. There are a lot of continuity cuts between scenes, ensemble acting (where everyone helps each other out) of the highest order, and crackling intrigue inhabiting every frame. Alongside his previous endeavor Birdman, “Light’s” lead in Michael Keaton, is now two for two. His co-star (Mark Ruffalo) who got nominated for a supporting role via 2014’s Foxcatcher, is also batting 1.000.

    So yeah there might be a repetition in Spotlight involving every (news reporter) caricature interrogating a victim and/or a suspect. No matter. This Open Road Films release rings true because Josh Singer’s screenplay is tight and engrossing. What we have amongst the muck, is the best movie of the year (so far). And just like one of my other top picks (2015’s Black Mass), the city of Boston swallows the proceedings whole as if Michael Phelps decided to inhale tons of hot dogs. You want to see actual events depicted that involve a massive cover-up among the Roman Catholic priests? You’ll get that in “Light”. You want the 9/11 attacks to be used effectively as a backdrop? You’ll get that as well. You wanna witness a small investigative team unravel the secrets behind so many young churchgoers getting molested? It’s all there. And do you want to revel in having the Boston Globe be the locale where all the news shtick goes down? Prego. Finally, do you want a cast that includes Liev Schreiber, Stanley Tucci, Rachel McAdams, and Billy Crudup? Who wouldn’t.

    All in all, Spotlight involves behind-the-scenes preoccupation in small rooms and quiet, open spaces. Every nuance between the troupers sticks. With its disciplined magnetism and critical darling demur, “Light” shines brightly. Rating: 4 stars.

    Rating: 4 out of 4 stars

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  • It starts off with a single priest. It ends with allegations against 87 abusive priests. That is in Boston alone. Spotlight, the compelling fifth feature by Tom McCarthy, is the story of how The Boston Globe exposed not just the widespread child abuse by priests in the Boston area, but also its systemic cover-up by the Boston Archdiocese who would merely shuffle the paedophilic priests from one parish to another.

    The film begins in 2001. The Globe has just hired a new editor, Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber), described as “an unmarried man of Jewish faith who hates baseball.” This brands him an instant outsider in a city full of baseball-loving Catholics. The staff are worried about layoffs, a concern Baron does little to alleviate over a conversation with Walter “Robby” Robertson, a veteran reporter overseeing the Globe’s Spotlight section. Readership is down and the Internet is cutting into the classifieds business. Yes, there is a financial bottom line to be acknowledged, but Baron’s focus is to make the paper do better in its reporting.

    To that end, he respectfully tasks the self-contained Spotlight team to further investigate a story that keeps getting buried in the back pages but refuses to go away. Father John Geoghan has been accused of molesting some 80 children in different parishes over the course of three decades. Mitchell Garabedian (Stanley Tucci), an attorney for many of the victims, claims to have documents that show the Archbishop of Boston was aware of the wrongdoing but did absolutely nothing about it. The Spotlight team know they have to get their hands on those documents to make any inroads, but Baron informs them that the paper will need a court order to lift the protective seal placed on the documents. In other words, the Globe will have to sue the Catholic Church, not an especially prudent move for a newspaper whose subscribers are 53% Catholic.

    Comparisons to All the President’s Men are inevitable, not only because Spotlight takes place in the same milieu but also because McCarthy’s film is as intelligent and rousing. This is a procedural that sticks to the process. Very little personal background is given for our protagonists, nor should there be. All we need to know about them is they are all dedicated, dogged and smart individuals who are very good at doing their jobs. And all of them have a shared goal: uncover the truth and tell the story. As with All the President’s Men and the more recent Zodiac, Spotlight crafts a symphony out of the mundane elements that comprise investigative journalism. People are questioned then questioned some more, lists are made and checked and re-checked, directories are pored over, courthouse forms are filled out, more questions are asked and more answers are scrutinised and more leads are followed upon, and so on and so forth.

    Yet it never feels boring. On the contrary, McCarthy paces it like a thriller, with each discovery propelling into the next. The details become more lurid, the cover-up more expansive. Everyone knows, but no one wants to talk. “If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to abuse one,” Garabedian notes, and it is unsettling how effectively Spotlight illustrates that sentiment.

    The powerhouse ensemble is flawless. Keaton’s wise underplaying renders his character’s flickers of moral ambiguity all the more palpable. Billy Crudup is excellent as the lawyer who proclaims to do the best for his victims but who operates in such a way as to ensure the abuse is kept under wraps. Schreiber is the stealth MVP as the quietly commanding leader who sets everything in motion. Mark Ruffalo shines as the most rabid dog in the Spotlight team whilst Rachel McAdams offsets his passionate intensity by conducting a master class on artful observance and eloquent listening. There’s a startling scene that has her character, Sacha Pfeiffer, going door to door in the hopes of tracking down one or more of the predatory priests. One such priest opens the door and casually admits to multiple acts of abuse. He’s innocent, he points out, because he didn’t get any pleasure from it. A look of horror paralyses Pfeiffer’s face, but then she recovers her composure and soldiers on. It’s not about her or this priest, it’s about the victims and getting the story right.

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  • Quickie Review:

    “Spotlight” team of reporters probes into a scandal of child molestation and how it is covered up by the local Catholic Archdiocese. This single investigation uncovers the multiple levels of religious and political establishment sweeping under the rug the gross injustices. Spotlight, is shocking, not only because of its subject matter but because of the fact it is based on a real story. However, rather than depending on the shock factor, the film is most effective because it concentrates on the people effected by the story. The talented cast perform in a subtle manner that brought a sense of realism to the characters. This is a movie that must be seen, for both the performances and the story behind the decades long atrocities.

    Full Review:

    To be honest, apart from the trailer I had very little knowledge on what this movie was about. Still, just by having a look at the cast, Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Live Schreiber, John Slattery, Stanley Tucci, and many more, you can expect there to be some strong performances.

    There was a lot of potential here for the director to push his characters from the big dramatic moments. Especially, when you consider the emotionally enraging subject matter. Instead the performances by the actors are refined to what realistically would be the reactions of the people involved. Other than one emotional blowout by one of the characters, everyone is understated in expressing themselves. You might think that might be a negative, but it’s quite the opposite. By not having repeated scenes of big dramatic moments, I got completely lost into the realism of the movie. It was so well shot, written, and acted that I may as well have been watching actual recordings of their meetings.

    The overall directing of this movie by Tom McCarthy was outstanding. I am not familiar with his previous work but he executes the film to near perfection. The film starts slow by just setting the dynamic of the characters in a normal setting. Then we, the viewers are brought along with the characters seamlessly, to uncover the truth with them. When they are in shock, you are too. When they are angry, so are you. That instant connection is thanks to the excellent pacing of the scenes, knowing exactly when to build to a revelation, disappointment, or relief. As a result you are completely invested into the film and how the story unfolds.

    I still have to mull over it but I’d consider Spotlight to be a strong contender to win the Oscar. I highly recommend this film. This is a story that everyone should be made aware of, and the film the does an excellent job in covering the subject. This is perhaps one of the strongest ensemble casts in a long time, directed masterfully by Tom McCarthy. I look forward to his future work.

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  • This years Academy Award Best Picture line-up was one of the most underwhelming in recent memory, but there was a little cheer when director Tom McCarthy’s underdog Spotlight took home the top prize. My personal favourite of the nominees, The Big Short, lost out, and the stand-out film of the year, Inside Out, wasn’t even on the list (although it took home the Best Animated Feature), but the lack of truly great films this year doesn’t take anything away from Spotlight, which is a riveting little procedural hampered by a surprising emotional distance from the disturbing subject matter.

    Like most films set amongst the huddled office meetings, desk-thumping and pen-chewing of the newspaper room, Spotlight takes its inspiration from Alan J. Pakula’s seminal All the President’s Men (1976), and concerns itself solely on the noble efforts of the staff trying to piece together that big story that will change everything. Here, we’re at the Boston Globe in 2001, and the newspapers new editor Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber) and almost instantly notices the importance of delving deeper into eccentric lawyer Mitchel Garabedian’s (Stanley Tucci) accusation that Cardinal Law (Len Cariou) has covered up the molestation of various children by a priest in their very city.

    Baron hands the task to Spotlight, a team consisting of ‘Robby’ Robinson (Michael Keaton), Mike Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams) and Matt Carroll (Brian D’Arcy James), who takes months exhaustively researching their subject matter before publishing their findings. What they uncovered were hundreds of cases in Boston alone of child molestation by priests, and the fact that this was ignored by people in a position to do much more. In fact, some of the most powerful moments come from the revelations that some of the Boston Globe staff sat on the story for years without taking notice of the extent of the abuse. With Operation Yewtree still hitting the headlines here in the UK, the subject of sweeping these kinds of cases under the rug couldn’t be more relevant.

    Spotlight depicts, in breathtaking detail, the work carried out by Robinson and his team to uncover the truth and to obtain the required evidence. Keaton, after last years Birdman, gives another assured performance, and Ruffalo is routinely terrific as the pit-bull Rezendes. Aesthetically, the film cannot be faulted, and McCarthy sticks strictly to the facts. However, the lack of an emotional connection means the film does not induce the kind of anger it really should. Without doubt the movies stand-out scene is Pfeiffer’s reaction to a priests blunt response to her equally blunt questioning, and the film should maintain the sort of power and shock this moment inspires, but keeps itself frustratingly distant. Spotlight is still an accomplished piece of work with some sparkling dialogue, and McCarthy hints that he may have found the same form he had with his terrific debut The Station Agent (2003).

    Rating: 4/5

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  • “They knew and they let it happen! It could’ve been you, it could’ve been me, it could’ve been any of us.”

    After watching “Concussion”, I wondered how former NFL players would react to this film. After seeing “Spotlight”, I asked myself whether the clergy had the courage to see this film or not. And also if lessons were drawn from this. Would the Church restore his original role in society? A haven for believers. Its function as middleman between the divine and the Christians. An institution created as a service for the needy, poor and pious. Or would abuses such as addressed in “Spotlight” simply continue to exist? Because lets admit it. The credits at the end of the film are more horrible than the actual film. It shows that the cited case is only a tip of the iceberg.

    What’s more frightening? Being pursued by a deranged maniac who’s wearing a hockey mask and carries a chainsaw? Or being abused by a perverted priest who can’t restrain his lust because of a self-imposed celibacy? Perhaps the first is extremely deadly. But the second one causes such a trauma, the victim wishes to encounter such a nut with a chainsaw to release him from his suffering. The things I thoroughly hate are abuse of power, inviolability, breach of trust and covering up criminal offenses by powerful authorities. And that’s something common within the church. A little bit too much fooling around with little choirboys? No problem. We’ll put you in another parish where you can play shepherd again and watch over some tame sheep. Disgusting.

    “Spotlight” reminded me of “All the President’s Men” with a young Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford playing Carl Bernstein’s and Bob Woodward, two Washington Post journalists who published articles about the Watergate scandal. Also a cover-up. But this one happened on a political level. The only result there was the resignation of president Nixon. The ecclesiastical cover-up made lots of victims. “Spotlight” is a dead serious film with a dead serious, nauseating topic. It’s admirable that they didn’t let it degenerate into an accusatory film that would unleash a veritable witch-hunt. Needless to say, the main roles are played impressively by Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams and Liev Schreiber. And for once, I was hoping that Ruffalo would briefly change into that green, muscular monster so he would crush a few clerics to the size of a of a host.

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