********* 8 out of 10 *********
Director: Tom McCarthy
Actors: Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams
Movies provide us with the means to escape the real world, at least for those brief two hours. Sci-fi themes, superhero stories, fantasy filled tales, they take us to new worlds, far away from our own. But then something like Spotlight comes up, and it drags us back to the real world, to the people and places around us. We may not want to be there, but then they give us a story – a story that is as entertaining, gripping, thrilling as any other – and we are hooked. In the hands of the right director, a serious-toned true tale can be as brilliantly entertaining as a Marvel flick. Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight is that movie.
Back in 2002, the US newspaper Boston Globe and its in-house investigative team ‘Spotlight’ published the story on the widespread and systemic child sex abuse in Boston by numerous Roman Catholic priests. It brought this topic into national limelight, something that was being pushed under the rug for all these years, for which the Globe’s investigative team won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. The movie Spotlight is based on the work put in by the Globe’s Spotlight team to uncover this dark secret after their new editor asked them to look into it. Director Tom McCarthy and his team have done a fabulous job in showcasing the hard work and dedication with which the Boston Globe went about its work. The sweat, the pain, the emotions they had to deal with when taking on something as powerful as the Church without flinching from their goals is nothing short of inspiring.
Based on the screenplay by Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer, Spotlight feels and sounds like a thriller, despite the complete absence of gunshots and car chases. It holds the kind of tension that one would expect from a Jason Bourne movie and not from a movie on journalists. But if you think about it, ‘investigative journalism’ would usually have the makings of a thrilling film – because of the secrecy involved and the consequences at stake – as long as it is handled with maturity. Tom McCarthy, the director whose last film was with Adam Sandler called The Cobbler, surprisingly displays that kind of maturity and sincerity in putting together Spotlight. He has to handle many different pieces in the film in an attempt to complete the jigsaw which he expertly does without getting any piece wrong. Not only does the movie cover the investigative aspect beautifully, it also brings out the depth to which this immorality has seeped into our society, allowed to stay hidden not only by some sections of the Church but also beyond them.
The movie’s pace and drama is handled with extreme conviction by a great team of actors, who incidentally have won awards for ‘Best Ensemble Cast’ at a few places. Michael Keaton leads the four-member team at Spotlight which also includes Michael Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams and Brian d’Arcy James. Keaton is calm and assured in another masterly performance which comes on the heels of Birdman as his team remains animated, driven and passionate to achieve their goal. The other three form a great partnership, at ease with each other, as the cameras and the dialogues move from one to the other without creating any interruption in the flow of the narrative. We get to see some of them in totally different skins, playing it still with so much ease. A scene where Ruffalo loses his cool with Keaton summarises the buried emotions with which the team has been dealing with (that scene made me want to stand up and applaud). When McAdams shuts her kitchen drawer roughly, you can feel the exertion tugging at her. Liev Schreiber, on the other hand is the calm editor, who has a strong personality about him without having to bark out orders (what a shift from the Sabretooth we know of!). Stanley Tucci is another outstanding performer in the film as the attorney fighting against the Church – he seems an arrogant prick to begin with until you start to love what he does! John Slattery makes up the final member of the key cast, as one of the leading editors of Boston Globe involved in their sensational publication.
Spotlight is not as much about revealing the wrongdoings of the accused Catholic priests as it is about revealing the power of good journalism. It creates heroes of the real ‘Spotlight’ team, the kind of heroes our society needs, the kind we don’t have to go looking for in a comic book because they live amongst us. As powerful in its presentation as 1976’s All the President’s Men, Spotlight brings hope, that in a society riddled with burdens of the worst kind, there will always be those fighting for righteousness no matter what the odds, and who will eventually succeed. Maybe next time, it can be you!