, the best movie of the year according to reviewer Ron Wells, comes not with bombs exploding, nor guns blazing, but with a small group of reporters who are armed with nothing more than their own intelligence to guide them, and a notepad and pencil to record the facts and details of the unspeakable horror they are uncovering.
Director Tom McCarthy has stepped away from his previous wonderful little films (Win Win, The Visitor, The Station Agent) and into the big leagues with his directing and co-screenwriting credit—along with Josh Singer— of this brilliant piece of filmmaking. With an exceptionally talented cast which includes Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schrieber, Stanley Tucci and so many more, he traces the steps taken by the Boston Globe’s real life “Spotlight” team as it attempts to shine a light into the dark and sickening crevices of the abuse of children by priests in a city that is 53% Catholic.
Like All The President’s Men, this is more of a detective story going down a maze of pathways in search of the truth as the intrepid reporters uncover one astounding bit of information after another, even though the Catholic church and profiteering lawyers try to keep them as far away as possible from the cover-up of the abuse. Slowly the Spotlight team comes to realize that there may be 87 priests in the city of Boston alone involved with this. A list on the screen at the end of the film will update the names of cities around the world where abuse by priests has taken place. It will horrify you.
Not enough can be said about the actors who portray the workmanlike reporters who are not afraid to ask the hard and probing questions nor look the powerful in the eyes and wait for an answer. Ruffalo and Keaton are steely-eyed and steady (and sometimes emotional), but to point out any one of these actors would be to ignore the fantastic work done by the rest. This is ensemble work at its best.
Yet it is McCarthy’s steady, non-showy directing style that holds the pieces together. He simplifies a complex story and allows his actors to give the audience the big picture. This is how a movie should be made. The power of his work comes through in its insistence of letting the story tell itself, rather than loudly drawing attention to his style. Even the mostly piano soundtrack quietly emphasizes the action rather then hit the audience with bombast.
In a time when newspapers are shutting down around the country and TMZ grabs more absurd headlines about celebrities, Spotlight focuses on and honors the art of investigative journalism. It is centered not on the horrors of terrorists blowing things up, or the the latest absurdity spoken by a politician, but instead takes us directly into the unreported, unseen, unspoken evil living right in our own neighborhoods. This is what journalism is supposed to do, and it is what Spotlight does in each and every scene in its quiet and riveting way.
In a world gone screamingly wrong, Spotlight methodically shows us the power of hard work to uncover the truth amidst the institutional facades put up to protect the rubble. Spotlight is not only a good movie, it is an important one. With so many films attempting to do nothing but reach new ecstasies of violence and crassness, this intelligent film is a throwback to the great movies of yesteryear that attempted to both entertain and illuminate.
In this case, it is reminding everyone of the power of the printed word to bring truth to power, to drag evil from the slime and muck it thrives in and expose it for all the world to see. It is the story of reporters who uncovered the truth about pedophile priests who were protected by institutions who should instead have been protecting the victims. Now let everyone see the truth and know that evil never sleeps, nor do those who would seek it out and expose it to the light. For the latter, we should all be grateful. This is a powerful story powerfully told.
In sum, says reviewer Ron Wells:
|1. Spotlight clearly shows how the Boston Globe broke the story on priests abusing children. This is a story that must be shouted to the world.
2. Spotlight shows the importance of investigative reporting by newspapers. With SO many papers closing, where will this kind of work be done?
3. Spotlight is the best film of the year.
4. Go see Spotlight.