Saturday, November 21, 2015

Spotlight

3.5/4

Starring: Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, John Slattery, Liev Schrieber, Brian D'Arcy James

Rated R for Some Language including Sexual References

I can only imagine the amount of guts it took for the Spotlight team to write this story.  By taking on the Church in the predominantly Catholic Boston, they were not only taking on the most powerful organization in the world, they were fundamentally altering the entire city's culture.  The Catholic Church was a huge part of Boston, and still is, but this shattered the Church's image.

That's one of the many things that "Spotlight" reflects on.  In telling this story, co-writer/director Tom McCarthy takes time to reflect what bringing this story to light means for the characters and the city of Boston.  The characters, each in their own way, become personally invested in the story.  With crimes that are so sinister and so obviously swept under the rug, how could they not.  Telling it becomes a mission.

Like many stories like this, it started out simply.  The new editor at The Boston Globe, Marty Baron (Schrieber) wants his team to look into a sex abuse scandal involving a priest that was raised in a recent column.  Walter Robinson (Keaton) says that they already looked into it, but agrees because he fears that Marty, who has a history of laying off reporters to cut costs, will ax the Spotlight team, which undertakes long investigations.  Of course, the team soon realizes that the column only scratched the surface.  The deeper they dig, the more they realize that not only were sex abuse cases by clergy, they were covered up by people at high levels of power.  It was a web of corruption that touched every part of Boston.

"Spotlight" covers a lot of ground.  And I mean, a lot (too much...there are so many characters that it's hard to remember who they are and how they fit in, but the movie does a good job of reminding us).  It's a investigation into the story (pursuing leads, interviews, etc.), but there's a lot of things to think about as well.  For example, it raises the possible conflict between faith and law.  The victims were threatened to keep silent by the church, certainly, but what about those involved with the legal side.  Will their faith alter how they act with the information provided?  Or what about how someone had claimed that cover-ups were going on years before the story broke.  They dismissed him as a kook, but was that really the case?  Maybe they just couldn't believe it was possible.  Or didn't want to.  The movie wisely doesn't try to answer these questions because it's smart enough to know that there aren't any.

This is an ensemble movie.  There is an array of fantastic performances, but no one does any scene-stealing.  Special mention has to go to Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton and Rachel McAdams.  Ruffalo or Keaton could get Oscar nominations (or both), and while McAdams is more of a longshot, it's still a possibility.

Tom McCarthy doesn't shy away from the emotional pain that the victims go through.  Nothing is shown, but there are some descriptions of sexual abuse and watching some of the victims tell their stories is heartbreaking.  A movie doesn't have to be as graphic as "The War Zone" to get its point across.  I would advise that certain sensitive movie goers skip this one, or wait for Blu Ray.

Still, there is some gallows humor here, and the tone is closer to "Erin Brockovich" than Tim Roth's picture.  Fitting for a story about a group of people having the guts to take on those with power in defense of those who had it taken away.  It is one of the year's best and most important films.

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