Magazine article Variety

Spotlight

Magazine article Variety

Spotlight

Article excerpt

Spotlight

DIRECTOR: Tom McCarthy

STARRING: Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams

It's not often that a director manages to follow his worst film with his best, but even if he weren't rebounding from "The Cobbler," Tom McCarthy would have a considerable achievement on his hands with "Spotlight," a superbly controlled and engrossingly detailed account of the Boston Globe's Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation into the widespread pedophilia scandals and subsequent cover-ups within the Catholic Church. Very much in the "All the President's Men"/"Zodiac" mold of slowbuilding, quietly gripping journalistic procedurals, this measured and meticulous ensemble drama sifts through a daunting pile of evidence to expose not just the Church's horrific cycles of abuse and concealment, but also its uniquely privileged position in a society that failed its victims at myriad personal, spiritual and institutional levels. The result may be more sobering and scrupulous than it is cathartic or revelatory, but with its strong narrative drive and fine cast, "Spotlight" should receive more than a fair hearing with smarthouse audiences worldwide.

Perhaps realizing the many different ways they could have tackled a narrative of this density, McCarthy and co-writer Josh Singer ("The Fifth Estate") have shrewdly limited themselves to the journalists' perspective, ensuring that everything we learn about the scandal comes to us through the Globe's eyes and ears. It's July 2001, and a defrocked priest named Father John Geoghan is facing allegations that he molested more than 80 young boys during his time in the priesthood. The Globe runs a few stories but little follow-up, until newly hired top editor Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber) turns the beat over to Spotlight, a four-person investigative team led by editor Walter "Robby" Robinson.

The search proceeds slowly, but on multiple fronts. Hard-headed reporter Michael Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo) works doggedly to secure the cooperation of Mitchell Garabedian (a spry Stanley Tucci), the notoriously larger-than-life lawyer who's representing 86 plaintiffs in the Geoghan case. Another Spotlight writer, Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams), digs into abuse claims that have been filed against other local priests, interviewing victims and cornering top attorney Eric MacLeish (Billy Crudup, slick), whose own attempts to hold the Church to account have done little to keep it from, in Robinson's words, "turning child abuse into a cottage industry."

That thread is pursued still further by reporter Matt Carroll (Brian D'Arcy James), who discovers an ingenious method of tracing those pedophile priests, whose ongoing offenses were not only known but actively enabled by the Archdiocese. Working with ace d.p. Masanobu Takayanagi, McCarthy directs in a clean, fluid style as he traces the story from the Globe newsroom to Boston's low-income margins, where priests reliably went after the most vulnerable kids they could find. As the investigation grinds on for months, Robinson and his team realize their job is not just to expose "a few bad apples," but also to prove the existence of a systemic cover-up at the highest levels of the Church - one that goes beyond Boston's Cardinal Bernard Francis Law (Len Cariou) and extends into the very heart of the Vatican itself.

Like so many films consumed with the minutiae of daily journalism, "Spotlight" is a magnificently nerdy process movie - a tour de force of filing-cabinet cinema, made with absolute assurance that we'll be riveted by scene after scene of people talking, taking notes, hounding sources, poring over records, filling out spreadsheets, and having one door after another slammed in their faces. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.