'Spotlight' Does is play like a very good investigative drama or a long winded television movie?
A true story of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church is told in the new film ‘Spotlight.’
In 2002 the Boston Globe published a series of articles that highlighted years and years of sexual abuse by priests and the coverup by church officials in Boston, a city with a very high concentration of Catholics. It was the newspaper’s Spotlight investigative team who uncovered the story.
The Spotlight team was in the middle of investigating police corruption but when the newspaper’s new editor (and non-native) Marty Baron (a very dull Liev Schreiber) recommends that the team take forward a previously unfinished investigation into the sexual abuse, they run with it. The team, run by Walter Robinson (the always good Michael Keaton) and led by reporters Michael Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo - making lots of strange faces throughout) and Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams in a standout performance), interviews several of the victims. But Rezendes gets more than what he bargained for when he pursues attorney Mitchell Garabedian (Stanley Tucci), a lawyer whose single-attorney law firm was about the only legal entity standing up to the deeply entrenched power of Boston’s Catholic Church - which was led by Cardinal Bernard Law (Len Cariou).
The team also discover that lawyer Eric MacLeish (Billy Crudup) was also part of the coverup regarding undisclosed settlements for some of the victims. MacLeish won’t give any details away, it’s up to the Spotlight reporters to do the digging. They discover that several priests have been moved around - shuffled off to different churches, and some had been on sick leave for long periods of time - it’s clues like these that help them with their story. Their investigation goes to the very top of Boston’s Catholic Church implicating that Cardinal Law was involved in the coverups.
’Spotlight’ is this decades ‘All the Presidents Men.’ The plots are similar; reporters in search of the truth, uncovering a scandal that reaches the highest levels. But I found it to be extremely formulaic and very predictable - and the film plays like a television movie in it’s over 2 hour running time. It’s pace is quick, but there are lots and lots of names and faces that are thrown at you, and it requires your full attention to understand what’s happening, don’t even let your mind drift for a second (what’s for dinner tonight) or you will lose an important plot point. It’s finely acted, with Keaton giving another great performance after last year’s well-received ‘Birdman’ - though Keaton is not nominated for an Oscar. It’s McAdams and Ruffalo who received nominations in the supporting categories - McAdams’ nomination is well - deserved but I don’t easily accept Ruffalo’s nomination - who acts with a bad Bostonian accent. It’s a character that is cliched - really into his job, no life outside of work, even an apartment that’s bare bones - but Ruffalo just didn’t cut it for me (the nomination should’ve gone to Jacob Tremblay who was superb in ‘Room).’ Directed and co-written by by Tom McCarthy (who did the poorly-received 2015 film ’The Cobbler’ and the excellent baseball film ‘Million Dollar Arm), ‘Spotlight has received 6 Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director. I can think of a few other movies that deserved these nominations over ’Spotlight.'