FILM REVIEW: Spotlight

Spotlight (Tom McCarthy, 2015)

It’s apt that on the first day that Cardinal Pell testified via video link as part of the Royal Commission into child sexual abuse in the Catholic church, that Spotlight took home the Oscar for Best Picture. Spotlight takes us back fifteen years to 2001, when the Boston Globe’s ‘Spotlight’ team investigated the cover-up of child sexual abuse by priests in the Boston area.  It’s chilling to watch as the journalists react incredulously to the possibility of there being approximately 90 pedophile priests in the area, given what we know now about how far-reaching these heinous crimes were. The end credits list the cities all over the world to have uncovered further abuse – it is sickening stuff.

There isn't a funny caption for this.
There isn’t a funny caption for this.

But for those scared to watch Spotlight for fear of its subject matter, be aware the film is first and foremost about the journalistic investigation, rather than any explicit detail about the crimes themselves. The most horrifying moment is actually the information provided in the end credits. It’s also not an ‘anti-Catholic’ film, and has been mostly well-received by the church, with a private screening been shown at the Vatican. In a time when it’s all too easy to despise the media for all its fear-mongering, propaganda and fluff pieces, Spotlight reminds us of the high calibre that does still exist in the journalism field – the Spotlight team members are nothing short of heroic.

Mark Ruffalo with the real Michael Rezendes
Mark Ruffalo with the real Michael Rezendes

Spotlight boasts a terrific ensemble cast, with Mark Ruffalo and Michael Keaton the stand-outs, amid further strong performances from Stanley Tucci, Rachel McAdams, Brian d’Arcy James, John Slattery, Liev Schreiber, Billy Crudup and Jamey Sheridan. A journalistic investigation might not sound too exciting, but a solid script (another Oscar win) by Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer makes this a completely engaging piece of cinema. And this is cinema that makes a difference – the more people who are aware of this horrifying part of history the better. It will make your blood boil but you should see it nonetheless.

4.5 stars

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