(M) Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Stanley Tucci, Liev Schreiber
Given the current “spotlight” in Australia on the Royal Commission, this critically topical film is the litmus test by which investigative journalism should be judged.
Spotlight details the exposé and investigation by the Boston Globe newspaper’s “Spotlight” team, into the clergy sexual abuse scandal and cover-up by the Catholic Church in Boston (which went all the way up to the halls of power).
Most importantly, this year’s Best Picture Oscar winner holds the institutions of law and the Church to account for their lack of accountability and breathtaking misuse of power. Also highlighted and attacked is the financial gain that was made by keeping the abuse of children outside the law (done by dealing directly with victims and paying them for their silence).
This isn’t a feel-good film, but a historical drama dealing with an actual investigation, which makes it all the more shocking in its revelations.
The “Spotlight” reporters lead by Walter Robinson (Michael Keaton) walk viewers through the exhaustive year-long investigation. While the truth is being uncovered, the viewer is never allowed to lapse into self-righteous hindsight. And if the film exposes anything for us all, it’s that often we can be complicit in our silence or avoidance of the truth.
While exposing multiple crimes, the biggest revelation of the story is that the crimes were in plain sight and even the Boston Globe itself was guilty of ignoring the scope of the abuse.
As the sheer weight of information adds up, the power of Spotlight lies in its understated nature. Ultimately, the toll of bringing the truth to light and the horror of the abuse is evident in each of the reporters’ numbed expressions, silent glances and hunched shoulders. The performances in this film are universally excellent as a result, but this is arguably Keaton’s best performance in a while.
If Spotlight needs a comparison it most resembles All the President’s Men. Both films present journalism not as an exotic movie profession but as a sometimes tedious, often inefficient and time-consuming means of groping after the truth.
Spotlight is a must-see film, both artistically and morally, and it wrestles with explosive content while never feeling manipulative or sensational. Most importantly, it uncovers evil and speaks the truth.