'Spotlight' review: Brilliant, tightly-focused celebration of solid journalism
The gravity of the real-life Catholic Church scandal makes the drama "Spotlight" (opening in theaters nationwide Nov. 13) interesting, but this film's complex and intricate layers of conflict make this film a must-see of 2015.
In short: The true story of The Boston Globe's investigation into the Catholic church sex scandal, headed up by the paper's special investigation team known as 'Spotlight.' Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo and Liev Schreiber star. (Watch the trailer)
The subject matter alone makes "Spotlight" an intriguing story and this film masterfully unravels the layers of deceit that led to a cover-up orchestrated not only by the church, but by the legal apparatus and the Boston community as well. This film isn't a simple "gee, look at what these crafty reporters found after doing some digging" -- "Spotlight" is as much of a rebuke of an entire community that assisted in ignoring the horrific crimes as it is an indictment of the Catholic Church.
Great films are based in great conflict - and "Spotlight" brilliantly shines light on the deceptive methods the church used to hide hundreds of sex abuse claims as well as the internal conflict of the 'Spotlight' team itself. The Spotlight team is made up of largely lapsed or practicing Catholics - while they may have one foot out of the door of the church, the church is still a fundamental part of their community. This aspect taps into another attribute of great films: identity.
These reporters know this story must be broken open -- but they are internally conflicted with the knowledge that they are taking on an entity that is beloved by their friends and family. People within the Globe, pillars of the Boston community and even some lingering personal doubts within the Spotlight team members themselves do not want this story to be true -- it is only their journalistic resolve that pushes them forward. They are taking on their community as much as they are taking on the Archdiocese.
Boy it's good to see Michael Keaton back in the lead role of a major movie -- and he proves his return in "Birdman" was no fluke. This guy is back for good. Keaton anchors what is certainly one of the very best ensemble casts of the year.
Writer-director Tom McCarthy affirms his place as one of the great unsung filmmakers of his generation.The latest from this director of the indie gems "The Station Agent" and "The Visitor" should become a household name with this hard-hitting drama.
Final verdict: "Spotlight" is the most important film about journalism since "All the President's Men" -- which almost looks simple compared to this brilliantly complex drama.
"Spotlight" is rated R for some language including sexual references. This true story drama opens in theaters nationwide Nov. 14.