Combustible Celluloid
Own it:
Search for Posters
Search for streaming:
NetflixHuluGoogle PlayGooglePlayCan I
With: Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, Brian D'Arcy James, Stanley Tucci, Billy Crudup, Paul Guilfoyle, Jamey Sheridan, Len Cariou, Neal Huff, Michael Cyril Creighton
Written by: Tom McCarthy, Josh Singer
Directed by: Tom McCarthy
MPAA Rating: R for some language including sexual references
Running Time: 128
Date: 11/06/2015

Spotlight (2015)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Start the Presses

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

It's possible that veteran newspapermen and women will appreciate Spotlight more than an average viewer might, but, even for an everyday viewer, it still offers a fascinating and frighteningly relevant story of big city journalism.

It may even be the best newspaper movie since All the President's Men, although its conspiracy story cuts deeper — molested children rather than crooked politicians — and its villain (the Catholic Church) more dangerous.

The title refers to a special team at the Boston Globe, which is given extra time and extra resources to dig deeper into bigger and further reaching stories. The real-life team won a Pulitzer Prize in 2003 for their coverage, depicted in Spotlight, of sex abuse by the Church.

Here the team is represented by Matt Carroll (Brian d'Arcy James), Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams), Mike Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), and editor Walter 'Robby' Robinson (Michael Keaton). They all report to deputy managing editor Ben Bradlee Jr. (John Slattery).

When a new editor-in-chief, Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber), arrives in 2001, he quietly puts the Spotlight team on the story of Boston Catholic priests molesting young boys.

The team begins interviewing sources and gathering information, and their initial target of thirteen guilty local priests quickly turns into nearly a hundred.

They speak to a persnickety lawyer (Stanley Tucci) who defends the victims, and to a sly one (Billy Crudup) who makes deals for the church. They chase after a packet of sealed documents that could contain damning evidence. And, heartbreakingly, they interview a few of the surviving, grown-up victims.

The writer/director Tom McCarthy, who normally specializes in smart, tender character-driven stories like The Station Agent, The Visitor, and Win Win, gives Spotlight a surprisingly straightforward, tightly-constructed approach.

It's not an overly visual movie, but McCarthy's brightly-lit shots, and a spare music score by Howard Shore, give the many dialogue scenes an urgent sense of rhythm. The energy sizzles as new leads are uncovered and as puzzling setbacks occur.

McCarthy handles his characters as if they were already alive, already had relationships with one another. We see them at ballgames, church, home, etc. No introduction, and no pleasantries, are required.

As such, he coaxes admirable performances from an ensemble cast, although Tucci, Schreiber, Keaton, and Ruffalo step up for a few movingly subtle moments.

They give life-blood to a highly intelligent movie, one that is energized by the thrill of a David taking on a Goliath.

This is the kind of story journalists live for, and it's the kind of movie we all deserve.

Movies Unlimtied