Director: Thomas McCarthy
Cast: Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schrieber, Brian D’Arcy James, Stanley Tucci, Billy Crudup, John Slattery
Runtime: 2 hrs 8 min
Rating: NC-16 (Some Mature Content)
Released By: Shaw
Opening Day: 21 January 2016
Synopsis: 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 delve 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 thriller, tracing the steps to one of the biggest crime stories in modern times.
“The city flourishes when its great institutions work together,” the cardinal offers the newly appointed Boston Globe editor some friendly advice in the early part of the movie. The editor, however, disagrees with this vision of harmony and argues that the paper should be independent.
This effectively sets the stage for the story that would win the Boston Globe a Pulitzer Prize and unravel the horrifying extent of the Catholic clergy’s abuse of children.
Spotlight is the gripping detective story/newsroom drama that brings to the screen this story of how a group of dogged reporters, egged on by their editor, not only refused to bow down to authority but pushes it back when such authority is used to cover up sinister acts as power operates without accountability.
Unlike other films where reporters are usually idealists or crusaders fighting for a cause that they believe in, the reporters here are conflicted humans who have mixed feelings about digging deeper into the acts of the Catholic clergy and causing doubt on figures who they’ve been taught to look up to since young.
Tom McCarthy ably helps the cast bring forth that inner conflict and avoids casting the conflict in mere black and white. While it is easy to treat this story, so well-known now, as a simple story of moral or good versus evil, thankfully McCarthy chose not to do so which would have risked oversimplifying the story as one of binaries.
McCarthy is not one prone to romanticism. He recognises and draws out the grayness that is reality. The Boston Globe is an imperfect institution where the people working inside are as prone to laziness and compromise as anyone else. Part of the reason why this scandal was not uncovered earlier was due to lapses on the part of the Boston Globe which close to overlook the evidence that the hierarchy was aware of the wrongdoings. The Spotlight team’s efforts to uncover the truth is more than just a matter of them doing what journalists are supposed to do – report the truth. It is also an effort to redeem the Boston Globe. The question “What took you so long?” is one that haunts them as they zealously attempt to make up for lost time.
The lack of romanticism is embedded in the overall design and feel of the film. The natural glamour that Rachel McAdams naturally exudes is toned down as she becomes an ordinary human being who struggles with the most basic of things such as loading a dishwasher. A retiring veteran is sent off with awkward speeches and forced laughter. McCarthy avoids easy shortcuts like exploitative flashbacks and also eschews the inflated sense of importance that the noir-ish All the President’s Men (you know that comparison between the two newsroom dramas based on real news events would be inevitable) had. This lack of euphemism and bare approach is perhaps what makes the moral horror of the incidents all the greater and appalling.
Although the story’s outcome is well-known, McCarthy manages to create suspense throughout the journey, keeping the audience on the edge of their seats as the stakes become clear and are those that audiences can easily relate to. It is not difficult to imagine yourself being in the shoes of the different characters, given how human they are and wondering, what choice would I have made?
And was the choice made by them in uncovering the scandal worthwhile?
(An explosive saga that brings out the everyday heroism of its characters, Spotlight is a masterpiece that leaves its audience breathless with its tight pacing)
Review by Katrina Tee