Spotlight Movie Review & Film Summary
At a time when newspapers are closing, and print readerships are down, Spotlight couldn’t have arrived at a more pivotal time. The new film from director Thomas McCarthy is truly a love-letter to the art of journalism. It doesn’t glamorize the job or what these journalists did; it just illustrates how they did their jobs—to investigate and to report. It shows all of the lengthy footwork that is among the process of an investigative reporter’s job. Most importantly the film, which is based on a true story, shows just how important journalism is.
Spotlight follows the oldest continuously operating newspaper investigative unit in America, The Boston Globe’s “Spotlight” team. The team consisted of Walter “Robby” Robinson (Michael Keaton), Michael Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams), Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber), Ben Bradlee Jr. (John Slattery), and Matt Carroll (Brian d’Arcy James). The focus of the movie is on the team’s coverage of the sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic archdiocese of Boston, Massachusetts. The “Spotlight” team brought the filthy secret of sexually abused minors by the church to the national limelight. The coverage earned The Globe the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.
It’s not an easy feat to take people sifting through information and making phone calls, and turn it into captivating drama, but somehow that’s exactly what McCarthy does with Spotlight. Much like Alan J. Pakula’s 1976 picture, All the President’s Men, where Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford uncovered details about the Watergate scandal, Spotlight engages the audience by simply releasing information to them, little by little. The audience is learning the harrowing information at the same time the reporters do, allowing viewers to share their shock. For example, there is an extremely pivotal moment in the film is when a particular percentage is revealed to the “Spotlight” team during a phone call. When the team reacts to this terrifying alarming number, that dreadful feeling transcends off-screen, into every seat in the theater.
Spotlight offers fantastic performances with an all-star cast. Keaton and Ruffalo are particularly great. The movie also wastes no time diving into the personal lives of these characters; there is no love angle or subplot to distract us. Things are said, and viewers learn only small things about each member of the “Spotlight” team. But it doesn’t solve every issue and doesn’t tie up every loose end—it just shows viewers what happened during this particular time, keeping the story at hand. It never gets sidetracked and constantly reminds us that this story is about a repulsive scandal and those who have fallen victim to it.
The best part of this astonishing film is that it has a purpose! Spotlight has something to say and says it loud and clear. Like journalism itself, especially The Globe’s coverage on this matter, the picture is there to start a conversation. In a way, a story like this is the ground level of change, it’s simply opening the door. It will inform and stun those who missed the story when it broke in the early 2000s. And though the compelling picture will have the audience chatting as the leave the theater, when the end credits begin to roll, everyone will be stunned, angered, and saddened in silence.
-By Jacob Tiranno
In case you missed our video review for this week, check it out below: