Directed by Tom McCarthy
2015 Historical Drama
2 hours, 8 minutes
From Open Road Films
Brian d'Arcy James
Well, gee, I suppose it would be accurate to say some Catholics may not care for this film but for those of us who are looking for quality movie-making, one should care very much about this one. It's just not every movie-going experience that takes one to these heights in terms of writing, directing, acting, editing and just the heightened awareness that one has just seen a piece of work where all pistons are firing. It's not a feel-good piece but that should not discourage one from seeing not only a finely crafted film but an important one. Of course it's based on a true event.
In 2001, shortly before the events of 9/11, a new managing editor (Schreiber) of the Boston Globe informs his eager reporters of the Spotlight section that there may be a possible story, the likes of which none of them has known and one in which the Catholic Church will be rocked to its core. It came to their attention that some 90 priests, just in the Boston area, had been sexually abusing young boys for years. Sadly, parts of the story had come to the paper a number of years before but they hadn't seen it for what it was.
It would not be accurate to say this is simply an expose of the abuses of the church, its outrageous power, corruption and coverup. The focus shines brightly on the world of newspapers and the dogged determination and skills of its investigative reporters. As a former newspaper reporter myself, I had a special interest in seeing this one. I haven't felt this kind of giddyup-and-go enthusiasm for a newspaper story since All the President's Men (1976).
The investigations by three reporters (Ruffalo, McAdams and James) and their immediate superior (Keaton), all apparently lapsed Catholics, involving priests, victims, attorneys and others are riveting in their boldness, tenacity and skill. It was, of course, all an uphill battle getting information, experiencing first-hand how the church closed ranks and then the disappointment that they would have to put the story on hold in order to cover the events of 9/11. There was also the question of whether highly-Catholic Boston would turn on the paper.
One is hooked from the beginning and it never lets go. We don't feel we're at a movie but in the newsroom, on the beat, running for an interview, being disappointed, feeling elation, working long hours. All was greatly enhanced by Tom McArdle's taut, exciting, imaginative editing. Here, too, is a film with no frills, no fluff, no cluttering with emotion, no love stories, little personal background, no car chases, no one is killed or even hit. But a punch is delivered just the same.
Tom McCarthy is a man of many interests. He is a producer, writer, actor and director. In addition to directing here, he also co-wrote the screenplay (with Josh Singer). His work is simply exceptional. I recall two early directorial efforts, The Station Agent 2003) and The Visitor (2007) as being films I much admired. Don't know what he's been into in the meantime but he certainly struck gold here.
I felt a release of dopamine in my brain over this cast. It may be true that Ruffalo and Keaton were given more to do but without exception this cast hit a home run. I defy anyone to catch any of them acting.
The real-life Boston story set the drums pounding worldwide. The church has still not recovered from it. The Globe investigation itself won a Pulitzer Prize and if this film is not at least nominated for its own big prize, a best picture Oscar, something is seriously wrong.
I am so excited about this film season.
Yes, another review