In 2002, The Boston Globe published a story of sexual abuse to children within the Catholic Church. This exposé, developed by a special investigative team called “Spotlight”, awarded the newspaper with a Pulitzer Prize.
Tom McCarthy directs this restrained piece about the development of the story and the journalists behind it, with a stark filmmaking that allows for emotional impact without melodrama.
Michael Keaton’s acting as Walter Robinson, the Spotlight boss –or, in his ownwords, coach- tells much with little, the highlight of a star-studded Boston Globe crew which includes Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams. Outside of the Spotlight unit, Stanley Tucci’s role as the eccentric lawyer Mitch Garabedian brings a touch of flashiness to an otherwise understated cast.
Several scenes pack a heavy punch. Particularly the interviews with survivors –and a brief but breath-taking exchange between Rachel McAdams’ Sacha Pfeiffer and one accused priest- show well that McCarthy navigates a nuanced topic with elegance and respect to the victims.
The approach to the main characters, more austere than heroic, unfortunately seems to constrain the depth they can show. This is a movie about journalism and personal tragedies, not about the journalists who ran the story – but even so characters feel occasionally somewhat flat.
This is a trend in the whole movie: the photography is sober and ruled by faded colours, the cinematography is straightforward, and the soundtrack by Howard Shore is beautiful, but not ostentatious. McCarthy takes no concessions to make the story crisp and clean-cut.
This point aside, Spotlight is a skilfully built film which attempts to tackle the question of how something so grim can happen, and provides with two hours of solid, realistic, well worth seeing newsroom drama as an answer.