The awards season may just have found its first forerunner. In a 2015 movie year that has been average at best without any standout films initiating awards conversation, Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight rising above the heap to assert itself as one of 2015’s best.
With an all-star cast including Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Live Schreiber, John Slattery, Stanley Tucci and Billy Crudup, Spotlight shines a light on a 2001 investigation by The Boston Globe’s on the sexual abuse within the Catholic Church.
Michael Keaton plays Walter Robinson who leads the Globe’s investigative unit with Michael Rezendes (Ruffalo), Sacha (McAdams) and Matt Carrol (Brian d’Arcy James). Under a new editor Marty Baron (Schreiber), the team begins to unfold a horrific pattern of child sexual abuse by the church that was muted and covered up by high priced lawyers and payoffs to victim’s families. As Walter probes further and further into the events (the setting is after the events the 9/11) the investigation reveals layers and layers of injustice of Catholic Priests that were aided by the highest powers of the church in an effort to keep the story muted.
It all starts with a featured column about Catholic priest John Geoghan who was accused of abusing over 100 boys. A civil suit is filed but the details of the abuse were ordered sealed by the courts. Schrieber’s Baron puts the team of reporters on the case and within days the evil that lurked with the sacred rooms of local churches begins to reveal is foul and despicable face.
The investigation goes on for months as the team hits roadblock upon roadblock taking one step forward for every two steps back. But the story eventually breaks and the emotionally exhausted team is eventually able to bring to light one of the more depressing and important stories of the early new century.
Michael Keaton was really good in last year’s Birdman and named himself many awards and an Academy Award nomination for his part. In Spotlight, he may be even better. Under the direction of Tom McCarthy (Win Win, The Station Agent), Keaton shines and carries a performance of determination, frustration and redemption that is delivered with precision.
Nods to All the President’s Men will be inevitable. But that was a different era. A different movie. Spotlight is fresh and invigorating in its painfully frustrating subject matter. Audiences should leave with a renewed belief that investigative reporting is of monumental importance and that stories such as the one originating in 2001 Massachusetts are still out there clouded in red tape secrecy and muffled whispers. It is painful to watch at times. Trusted bonds between people, children, parents and the institution that promotes the opposite to what it sometimes preaches are disgusting revelations that are brought to the screen with sizzling effects.
The entire cast from top to bottom is perfectly cast. And McCarthy doesn’t populate his frames with unnecessary spectacular visuals. Spotlight is instead very straight forward. Focused and driven.
Spotlight will be nominated for Best Picture and Keaton should get a nod for Actor. Ruffalo may also sneak his way onto ballot sheets. But whether Spotlight wins any hardware is unimportant as long as we recognize the importance of films such as these. A few years ago I would guess that 99% of the population knew nothing about the Iran hostage rescue highlighted in Ben Affleck’s Argo. Spotlight should have the same effect acting as a docudrama that is both highly entertaining and educational at the same time. It is both a very good film and an important one.