Spotlight (Tom McCarthy, 2015)

What's it about? Based on real events, it tells how the Spotlight team of investigative journalists (played by Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams and Brian d'Arcy James) at the Boston Globe newspaper broke the story of how the Catholic church systematically covered up evidence of child abuse by priests in the Boston archdiocese.


Is it any good? A worthy and worthwhile film about an important subject, a clear-eyed, clearly told account which should be seen, if only to keep reminding people about the despicable actions carried out by various church leaders, in Boston and across the globe. This is not a hysterical, over-wrought film, though. Spotlight is unapologetically unhurried in its manner, the drip-feed of information allowing the storytelling to be the focus, rather than the actors, although they are all excellent in their roles, as they slowly come to terms with their revelations. All The President's Men is the obvious comparison, but this is a more low-key affair and director McCarthy has a more perfunctory approach to the material. The understated, televisual style means a better comparison would be Series 5 of The Wire (clearly an influence on McCarthy, who played a newsroom reporter in the show), which both celebrated and lambasted journalistic integrity and media responsibility. Here too, uncomfortable questions are quietly raised about how both individuals and society were complicit in allowing powerful institutions to carry out scandalous horrors right under their noses. Despite this, Spotlight isn't a particularly emotional, or even an angry film, even though it has every right to be. Instead, it's deliberately and appropriately matter-of-fact in simply depicting the events and warning us to be vigilant against our own complacency and apathy. Because, as the film suggests, and the sobering end captions show, this could have happened to anyone, anywhere. Let's hope the success of the film helps it from ever happening again.

Anything else I should know? At the time of writing, it's currently joint favourite with The Big Short to take home Best Picture at the Oscars in a few weeks time. Naturally, the success of the film has sent people scurrying off to read about the real journalists involved in the investigation. Now you can too, as the reporters write about how they felt upon seeing themselves portrayed onscreen. Elsewhere, you can read a brief summary of how dramatic license was taken with the real-life events and time-line without losing the integrity of the story. Also, the Catholic church has an awful lot to answer for. But then, you knew that already.

What does the Fonz think? Feckin' priests.

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