Directed by actor turned writer/director Tom McCarthy, Spotlight follows the story of the Boston Globe’s investigatory team of the same name that exposed shocking exploits of some Roman Catholic priests in the Boston area. In the early 2000’s the Boston Globe’s ‘Spotlight’ team headed up an investigation into the abuse of children at the hands of priests, little did they know that what began as some small coverage would unravel into the story of a lifetime.
Setting a film in the belly of newspaper offices does not lend itself well to spectacle, but McCarthy and his crack team of actors and actresses deliver a damning film, with captivating performances, in a story full of emotion and betrayal. It’s a great film which operates on a number of levels, pursuing several leads at once in order to pull off the most credible and purposeful account it can.
In tackling a film of this nature it would be very easy to get drawn into depicting nasty details of the horrific acts committed by such esteemed members of the community, but what McCarthy does expertly well is focus on the journalism that got the Spotlight team to their result. The haunting interviews with victims, meetings with resistant lawyers, and the shady unspoken words from those who had a hand in the game work perfect together, and do more than being exploitative with the horrible crimes committed. In a world where tacky magazines give headlines to the latest celebrity relationship, or pathetically unnecessary accounts of what the Kardashian family had for dinner last night, the release of Spotlight could not be more relevant. Demonstrating the power journalism can achieve when handled properly is one thing, but making it exciting is another, and McCarthy and his Spotlight team pulled it off with finesse.
The faultless performances of the entire cast go a long way towards that achievement, not only were the likes of Michael Keaton and Mark Ruffalo nothing short of amazing, but the victims of abuse, and supporting actors such as Billy Crudup were just as great. The direction may not have been glamorous, it’s hard to be so stuck in courtrooms and offices all the time, but it most certainly is effective. Finely paced, and adeptly shot, McCarthy has come a long way in his short directorial career. Looming shots of church peaks towering over surrounding houses makes for striking imagery that lingers in the memory.
The history of films based on ‘true stories’ is littered with accounts which played fast and loose with the details, however Spotlight does no such thing. It appears to be as tightly wound to the original narrative it can be, choosing not to embellish major details for the sake of drama, many an adaptation of real events can learn from this.
Spotlight plays very much like a film in the same vein as A Few Good Men, and just like a well written piece of journalism it’s dramatic, engrossing, and most certainly warrants your attention.