There are so many films that I wish I could unwatch and this is one of them. Not because it is bad but because it is so good, I want to walk in and be shocked and awestruck by it again.
It follows the investigation of ‘The Boston Globe’ that started as looking into claims of members of the Catholic Church molesting children. The film handles this topic like plutonium but while it treads carefully it does not lack the truth and punch that the original expose by the Globe had. As while the end credit titles appear on screen, which show the true scope of how large this disaster was, I felt like I had been hit with a cricket bat.
Instantly it will remind you of ‘All The Presidents Men’ and I would say that it stands up to it. Though it lacks the cinematic flare that ‘ATPM’ has, it becomes an advantage for ‘Spotlight’ as it will allow it to transcend the different mediums without suffering. As first and foremost, this is a film about people and the impact of breaking this story on them. So a smaller scale works for this, as it makes the film feel more personal, you can feel like you are alongside them, in the Spotlight office during the investigation but once they publish the story, you feel like you are at home reading it for the first time. So where ‘ATPM’ shows how the Watergate scandal will affect a nation, ‘Spotlight’ brings the world into Boston and by showing us how it affects the people; we can see through them how it rocked the foundations of people’s beliefs across the world.
I do feel that it handles this personal conflict and turmoil in a measured and considered way. We don’t see overdramatised reactions which would undermine the earlier acts of the film that laid the foundations for the last act. Instead we have a gradual realisation by the team and how it affects them, and as we see at the end of the film, how it affects those around them. One of these is the stand out performance of Brian d’Arcy James (Matt Carroll) where he becomes increasingly distraught knowing that one of the suspected priests lives near him, in a family neighbourhood. He knows that if he warns anyone, that priest may be caught but countless others may get away and the cycle starts again in another city. Mark Ruffalo (Mike Rezendes) is the one to voice this in the office, in a moment of nail biting tension “they knew and they let it happen”. This is a credit to the craft that Ruffalo has, as during this when he is pushed to the edge and snaps, we never think, will he “hulk” out; he keeps us in the film and in the moment.
It would be easy to say that ‘Spotlight’ is a film being critical of the Catholic Church and takes the high moral ground, and that is true to an extent. But it is about a community, a town which became complacent in an unspeakable crime “It takes a town to raise a child, it takes a town to abuse one” laments Stanley Tucci’s character. And ‘Spotlight’ spreads the share of that blame around but it does not neglect the Boston Globe itself, who were equally complacent in the crime. Though it doesn’t take this path right away, it creates a trail of breadcrumbs that seem suspicious but not overly relevant at the time. But they all start to add up, to the overall question, why wasn’t this published years ago? So something must have changed and that is Liev Schreiber as the “unmarried out of town Jew who hates baseball” Marty Baron, the new Editor in Chief of the Globe. Which does lead to a very interesting thought, how much are people willing to ignore, to put a blind eye to, until someone comes in and directs us to it?
So, ‘Spotlight’, it it worth seeing? Yes, 10/10 I would recommend this film to you, as it is a story that everyone should be acquainted with; not just the goings on of the Catholic Church but how it is easy for people to become complicit without realising it.
This article was contributed to us by a guest writer, Duncan Cushenan.
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