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Spotlight (2015)

Josh Reviews Spotlight

December 30th, 2015
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Tom McCarthy’s new film Spotlight tells the story of the Boston Globe’s “Spotlight” team’s investigations, begun in 2001, into the sexual abuse of children by Boston Roman Catholic priests, and by the efforts of the Boston Archdiocese to cover up those incidents of abuse.  The film is riveting and electric.  This film is the All The President’s Men of this generation.

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This is an important story, and Spotlight brings the case to life clearly and dramatically.  The film focuses on the main “Spotlight” team and a few other senior players at the Boston Globe, and while the film develops these characters sufficiently for us to get to know and like them, the film doesn’t distract our attention with digressions into these reporters’ personal lives.  Rather, the film’s portrayal of this story remains squarely focused on the unfolding investigation.  This is exactly the right approach.  The film allows the audience to gradually discover the extent of the scandal along with the reporters.  Their growing disbelief and horror mirrors our own.  I followed this story as it unfolded back in 2002-2003, but the film allowed me to rediscover these events through new eyes.

This is a complicated story, with many different people involved.  And yet the film unfolds with a clarity of story-telling that I found remarkable.  The script by Tom McCarthy (who also directed) and Josh Singer is a tremendous piece of work.  I am sure elements of this complex story have been simplified for this presentation on-screen, and yet the film never feels dumbed down or truncated.  On the other hand, the film never collapses under the weight of too-many-names or too-much complexity.  The audience is able to very clearly follow the reporters’ efforts.  When the big revelations happen, they land effectively and with the impact those discoveries warrant.

The cast is magnificent.  I hardly know where to begin.  Let’s start with the “Spotlight” team.  Michael Keaton’s career resurgence (begun with his extraordinary work in last year’s Birdman) continues here with his work as Walter “Robby” Robinson, the head of the “Spotlight” team.  Holy cow is Mr. Keaton spectacular.  This is not a showy role — none of the roles in this film are (well, with the possible exception of Mark Ruffalo’s one big explosion in the third act) — and yet Mr. Keaton’s wonderfully expressive face and eyes (well-served by some terrific close-up work throughout the film) draw us right in to the impact this unfolding story is having on Robby.

The afore-mentioned Mark Ruffalo plays Michael Rezendes.  Mr. Rezendes is presented as the most dogged investigator on the team, and the one who feels the story the most passionately (both of which seem to have detrimentally … [continued]