Director: Tom McCarthy (2016)
Stop the press for this Oscar nominated drama of award winning journalism.
Based on real events, a US newspaper team fight to reveal the industrial scale cover up of child abuse perpetrated by the Catholic Church in Boston.
It’s gripping tale which allows for the redemption of an individual, the validation of journalism and the recovery of civic pride.
So exactly the sort of worthy subject matter which allows Hollywood to feel good about itself and self-righteously pat itself on the back for making.
Consequently it’s garnered 6 Oscar nominations including best picture and director ,as well as for individual nods for performers Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams in the supporting acting categories.
It’s set in the early 2000’s in the basement office of the close knit Spotlight newspaper investigations team of The Boston Globe. The real Spotlight Team earned the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.
Michael Keaton is weathered and wary as ‘Robby’ Robinson, veteran leader of the four strong department.
Sporting a supportive if volatile chemistry, they’re played by Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams and Brian d’Arcy James.
They face the double threat of the burgeoning new media world and a new editor, played with softly spoken steel by Liev Schreiber.
Marty requests the team investigate complaints made against the church.
Being from out of town Marty is immediately considered someone not to be trusted. A situation compounded by being Jewish in a Catholic dominated city.
It is strongly in part to this insular attitude which allows members of the Catholic clergy to spend years abusing their flock, and for the hierarchy to systematically cover it up.
The powerful and wealthy institution has long put the fear of god into legal profession, justice system, police and even parts of the press.
We follow the team undertaking journalistic procedure of voluminous research, copious coffee consumption, door knocking, meetings with lawyers, prodigious note taking and telephone calls.
As files of evidence go missing from the courthouse, the team realise they can’t trust their colleagues, the police or the courts.
This is all familiar procedural stuff and it’s the high stakes and charisma of the actors which brings it alive.
We are drawn in by the performances, intrigued by their work and disgusted by the subject matter.
Covering a difficult subject in a dignified and sensitive manner, a strong narrative framework provides essential information in a clear manner.
But the film struggles to open out from a series of meetings into something more grand and cinematic.
More than one scene has the team gather around a telephone speaker to receive vital information from a Deep Throat type whistleblower.
As efficient as Spotlight is, it‘s the grim truth which keeps us watching, not the drama.