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Spotlight - Review

Spotlight

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 5 out of 5

A TRICKY subject matter is given the mature and highly intelligent treatment it deserves in Spotlight, Tom McCarthy’s true story of the Boston journalists who uncovered widespread abuse of children by Catholic priests.

Told primarily from the perspectives of the Spotlight team of journalists who reported on it, as well as the editor who oversaw them, this also remains hugely mindful of its victims as well as pointing the finger at corporative wrong-doing and collective culpability.

One line, in particular, resonates: “If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to abuse one.” And therein lies the central truth at which the film is driving at, providing plenty of food for thought for some time afterwards.

McCarthy’s film picks up as the Boston Globe‘s new editor, Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber), instructs Robby Robinson (Michael Keaton) and his Spotlight team to look into allegations of abuse involving one local priest.

But as their investigation exposes a much wider problem, possibly involving global culpability within the Catholic Church, the pressure mounts on those reporting it, whether from those who would seek to bury it, or from within the journalists’ own belief systems.

In that way, McCarthy’s film – based on a script he co-wrote with Josh Singer – is an extremely probing one. It asks questions of its audience, while expertly deconstructing the process by which the scandal was revealed. And the result makes for mesmerising viewing.

What’s more, McCarthy’s direction remains first-rate, avoiding any temptation to become overly sentimental or unnecessarily sensational, or even confrontational. And it allows the performances to take centre-stage.

Keaton excels as Robinson, combining quick wit and free-flowing charisma with piercing intelligence and even personal soul-searching, but he’s backed up by a uniformly excellent ensemble. Mark Ruffalo is highly engaging as the dynamic and passionate Mike Rezendes, one of the unit’s primary reporters, while Rachel McAdams, as the more mild-mannered Sacha Pfeiffer, provides a nice contrast.

But then Matt Carroll, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, Billy Crudup, Paul Guilfoyle and Stanley Tucci also make their mark – the latter, especially, as the lawyer who has committed his life to taking on the church. As ever, the actor makes a point of commanding the screen whenever opportunity allows.

The highest accolades, however, must go to McCarthy for the way in which he juggles the many elements so expertly. Spotlight would have been a difficult film to lose control of in some way, but the film combines sensitivity with courage, inspiration with outrage and insight with the need to pose further questions.

In a career already littered with fine movies (from The Station Agent through The Visitor to Win Win), McCarthy has now delivered his masterpiece. Spotlight is, without question, one of the best films of the year and a hands-down must-see.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 128mins
UK Release Date: January 29, 2016