In Review


5 out of 5 stars
5 out of 5 stars - 'Outstanding - Starkie!'
Directed by Tom McCarthy
US 2015, 128 min.
Review by Clinton Stark

Mark Ruffalo. Michael Keaton. Rachel McAdams. Liev Schreiber. John Slattery. Stanley Tucci.

Together, in one movie?

Yes. That would be Spotlight. And it’s a monster.

Tom McCarthy’s newsroom drama will surely go down as one of the year’s best films. Based on true events surrounding the take-down of the Catholic Church in the early 2000’s, we know exactly how things will go down, yet we’re transfixed by the proceedings — often very technical proceedings. A lot of that has to do with the memorable performances, no question. But, most of all, Spotlight’s success could be attributed to the up-close and personal lens that takes us into the machinations that is the journalistic process. On the outset it may sound dull. Yet McCarthy keeps the pacing on over-drive. The result is a fascinating look at what could be the last days of true investigative news reporting. Boiler-room indeed.

In 2002, the Boston Globe ran an expose on Roman Catholic priests. After a mind-numbing amount of research, the newspaper — led by a special “Spotlight” investigation team — discovered a systematic cover-up, and determined that a top-down conspiracy was perpetuating a cycle of child abuse. Eventually, what seemed to be a confined transgression, turned out to be a crisis of spectacular proportion.

Come Oscar time, expect to see Spotlight well represented.

As the starry eyed reporter, Ruffalo turns in a breathless performance. Literally. It seems as though he’s always running, always out of breath. Photocopier not working? No worries, I’ll just run over here. Need some archived records released? Sure thing, I’ll just run over there. By telling this story largely from his perspective (that of Globe reporter Michael Rezendes), McCarthy is able to double-down on the David vs. Goliath aspect of the story. Journalists are poor and scrappy. The Church rich and all powerful.

Michael Keaton and Mark Ruffalo in Spotlight (Review)
Michael Keaton and Mark Ruffalo turn in standout performances in ‘Spotlight’.

In a relatively minor role Stanley Tucci is convincing as a lawyer turned begrudging whistle-blower. And as newsroom chiefs, Keaton (Birdman) and Slattery (Mad Men) are utterly superb. You could randomly pause this film at any given point and land on yet another memorable scene; a master class in acting and directing.

Come Oscar time, expect to see Spotlight well represented. It’s a reminder that pre-Buzzefeed “media” could be just as powerful as the titanic figures it covered. And that the pursuit of truth and justice could still prevail. Sometimes, thankfully, the good guys do win.

Spotlight will also be screened next month at the Napa Valley Film Festival.

Photo credit: Kerry Hayes.