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Spotlight - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Directing: A-
Acting: A-
Writing: A
Cinematography: B
Editing: B+

There's a certain irony to the vital nature of the information presented in Spotlight, given that it's about how The Boston Globe exposed the systemic cover-ups of pedophilia in the Catholic Church in 2002. We all know it's long been common knowledge that the Church was guilty of such horrible things, but where did the story come from? It's not common knowledge that it came from a particular city newspaper -- which uncovered eighty-seven guilty priests in the city of Boston alone -- and that is because, of course, no one reads newspapers anymore.

Well, some people do. And certainly a lot of Bostonians did in 2002. And here director and co-writer Tom McCarthy tells the story of how that came to be, which he does with impressive urgency, given how little action there is in this movie. Like most movies about people working at a newspaper, there's just a whole lot of people talking a lot. Much of the time they talk fast because they're in a hurry.

The title of this movie, Spotlight, is somewhat unfortunate given that it says nothing about what the story is. Or maybe that's a way to trick people into the theatres? It's hard to imagine this movie making much money, much as it should be seen by everyone with even cursory experience with the Catholic Church. This is an institution with decades of stunning hypocrisy and enabling of pedophiles -- anyone with eyes and ears over the past fifteen years knows that all they did to priests who molested children was reassign and relocate them.

The "Spotlight" of the title, though, refers to the real-life investigative team at The Boston Globe that uncovered the systemic corruption of the Church. Thus, in context, the title makes sense. This movie is all about them -- played with uniform precision by Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, and Brian d'Arcy James, with John Slattery as their supervisor -- and the challenges the faced during this one particular investigation. There were some major hurtles given the timing, not least of which was 9/11 occurring in the middle of it all, putting the reliability of many neglected sources in jeopardy.

The way this film tells the story, though, the decision to do the story at all comes down to the Globe's incoming new editor (Liev Schreiber), a Jewish man pointedly seen as an outsider. This is the reason given for his perspective on a column that brought up the Catholic Church corruption, and stating that this is the biggest story they should be working on.

And to Tom McCarthy's credit, he takes a very matter of fact approach to these journalists, who are not exactly blameless themselves -- we learn that the Globe actually had all the information needed to publish an expose of this nature years before, and at the time they buried it. Such is the nature of this church institution and a city very much controlled by it. Time and again, people bring up "the good they do for the community" as a reason not to make any accusations against the Church, as though literally hundreds -- maybe thousands -- of child sex abuse victims are not as important.

McCarthy wisely avoids spending too much time on specifics when it comes to what these people endured as children, but puts just enough in the dialogue to elicit appropriate disgust -- not just on an individual basis, but in terms of how the Church covered it all up from the highest levels of leadership. People who grew up and loved the Catholic Church may have somewhat understandably conflicting feelings about it, but it's difficult to see how anyone else can look upon the Catholic Church with any respect whatsoever.

But people should know about this, and that's what the movie Spotlight offers, unpleasant as the subject matter is. In 2002, The Boston Globe published hundreds of stories about this scandal. They didn't exactly bring down the Church, but they certainly permanently altered its reputation. And there's something undeniably fascinating about seeing how this was uncovered -- with the kind of relentless work done by journalists merely doing their jobs, recognizing what the public has the right to know. These people aren't presented as heroes so much as flawed individuals who work too hard at the expense of their families, but who do the right thing when it comes to their profession.

Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo, Brian d'Arcy James, Michael Keaton and John Slattery mount their editorial attack on the Catholic Church in SPOTLIGHT.

Overall: A-
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