The Short-Spotlight is an inspiring, overwhelming masterpiece of filmmaking about the special team of Boston Globe investigators that uncovered a massive cover-up within the Catholic Church. Tom McCarthy directed and wrote what could possibly be the year’s best film and also the best movie about Journalism since All The Presidents Men. Spotlight is perfectly cast and never loses sight of its story and it shows as a never boring, enthusiastic work of art. Spotlight should be shown in every journalism class in the country.
When you ask any movie buff what is the greatest movie about journalism there is very little doubt in my mind that 99% will say All The Presidents Men, and until recently they would be 100% correct. This review is not going to compare the 1977 classic to Spotlight instead I’ll just leave you with one thought on the two. Spotlight is far and away the best film about investigative journalism since All The Presidents Men and if teachers were looking for a newer film to show their journalism students they should show Spotlight. Tom McCarthy puts together an impeccably written, searing tale about the journalists that uncovered a massive cover-up by the Boston Archdiocese which in turn sent the Catholic church in a tailspin. Spotlight follows Globe Editor Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber), Ben Bradlee Jr(John Slattery), Walter “Robby” Robertson(Michael Keaton) and his team of Journalists who pick a high profile story and spend months to years investigating. Robertson’s team includes crack investigators Mike Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams), and Matt Carroll (Brian D’Arcy James). As it is pointed out in the film, this type of story needed a certain touch, it needed an outsider like Baron who spent his previous years in New York and Miami as an editor. It’s Baron who pushes the team to use all of their resources towards the investigation into the Boston Archdiocese. Thanks to Director Tom McCarthy all of the films set up is just as interesting as the actual reveals are later on in the film. McCarthy’s direction makes the entire process totally enthralling, like the story is made to have been portrayed on film.
Spotlight begins in flashback to a cold Boston night, not until the film’s final moments do we fully understand why it’s important but it is. It is understood that Boston and the Catholic Church go hand in hand, “53% of our readers are Catholics” it is pointed out to Baron at one point early on in the film. When we are finally introduced to the Spotlight team they are just coming off of a story and are searching for their next one, a process that normally takes months and up to a year of investigation. You get the opportunity to see exactly how the investigation unfolds, how it starts and the actual process of digging into a story of this size. If you don’t leave Spotlight and immediately want to work for this team then you might have missed the point, the process is incredibly complex but like the movie as a whole thanks to a wonderful cast, score, and direction from McCarthy it’s totally absorbing.
Spotlight has a handful of really fantastic moments, whether it’s the cuts between two different survives telling insane rape stories or Ruffalo’s Oscar moment as he reaches his breaking point in the investigation (see the video below) Spotlight is chock full of great dramatic moments. One of the most memorable is when Rachel McAdam’s Sacha Pfeiffer knocks on the door of one of the priests who possibly raped a child. In one of the great on screen “gotcha” moments Sacha questions the priest who then starts to nonchalantly answer each question confirming that he had indeed raped a child but “didn’t find any pleasure in it” and before his sister could stop him he even admitted that he did it because he too had been raped by a priest. McAdams plays the shock perfectly with a “wait what!?” look on her face. The theater I first viewed Spotlight in was jam packed and nearly everyone in the audience couldn’t help but respond with an audible gasp or laughter. It’s one of the really memorable moments of the film and only one of the many mesmerizing scenes.
Spotlight is incredibly smart and equally well done as it takes on a subject that could not have been easy to get right. Tom McCarthy was not only a capable eye but seems to have been the perfect guy to help put this story to film. His script along with Josh Singer(The Fifth Estate) should earn an Oscar nomination along with his direction of the film. It seems that all of the ensemble cast are being put forth for supporting actor/actress nominations even though I think Michael Keaton and Mark Ruffalo will be the only ones that earn Oscar noms. Spotlight is might not end the year at the top of our Best Picture Oscar Ballots but right now it is the Leader in the clubhouse for Best Picture. It is one of the first truly perfect films of 2015 and should be treated as such by voters.