The true story of how the Boston Globe uncovered the massive scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese, shaking the entire Catholic Church to its score.
It's been nearly 40 years since All the President's Men turned two young reporters into stars and inspired a whole generation of young people to become journalists. Now the best journalism movie since Alan J. Pakula classic is coming to theatres; hoping the film will give a similar boost to journalists and their profession. This film is a disturbing movie, but in all the good ways. This happened, people dealt with it, they brought the story to light and this is why they were doing so good. The truly dramatic story here lies offscreen and goes a great degree in the past, while the journalists work consisted mostly of persistence, constant grinding and not having a life until the job is done - and maybe not even then. This film is most of all a reminder of the kind of investigate print journalism, which is becoming even more rarer. This material can't help but be interesting, even compelling.
As numerous notable films have demonstrated, the spectacle of lowly scribes bringing down the great and powerful can make for exciting, more than interesting cinema. However, there's none of the paranoia of a picture like (mentioned before) Alan J. Pakula's 1976 film or Michael Mann's The Insider (1999). Spotlight has a few inevitable journo clichés where male reporters are dishevelled, don't need to keep the same hours as everyone else, machismo on the subjects of poker and sports and they somehow never need to do the boring grind of sitting down and writing on computers. Though, this movie is honourably concerned to avoid sensationalism and the bad taste involved in implying that journalists, and not the child abuse survivors, are the really important people here. Plus, what is interesting about this film is that it reminds you that the theory of child abuse by priests was widely accepted until relatively recently.
On the one hand, there's no real depth given to these reporters. Unfortunately, characters are not interesting or distinctive enough, even the uniformly excellent actors playing them can't bring them to life all by themselves. On the other hand, the movie doesn't make them look like heroes as well, but more like what they truly are: reporters, doing their job in order to highlight a true story. In fact, Michael Keaton is terrific here again after Birdman. Throughout the film, as this case built and built to the point where you are just amazed this is a true story displayed in front of you; actors performed and hold back so well that as you watch it you almost don't feel like you're watching a film anymore but a documentary. Despite having actors that are so recognisable, they truly disappear into their characters and when you can say that of a film, they win. What McCarthy is saying in this movie is that threats never need to be made. A word here, a drink there, a frown and a look on the golf course or at the charity ball, this was all that was needed to enforce a silence surrounding a transgression that most of the community could hardly believe existed anyway. Finally, there is something cautious about the film dramatic pace and as McCarthy keeps the narrative motor running, there are some very good scenes. Chiefly the extraordinary moment when Sacha Pfeiffer starring Rachel McAdams confronts a retired priest ans asks him, flat out, if he has ever molested a child. The resulting scene had me on the edge of my seat.
Overall, this well intentioned journalism drama capably tells an important story. It blew me away, it's a remarkably well written and acted film.