Investigative journalism has become a dying art, mainly because people can get the news on the internet with their smartphones, laptops, and tablets. But the best type of journalism was when they did it the old-fashioned way, with immense dedication and breakneck focus to get the truth out there, no matter how tough and draining it really was. An obvious example of the way the process should be depicted on film was the 1976 classic, All the President's Men, which was made with extreme attention to detail, brilliantly acted and directed, and still relevant. Forty years later, last year's riveting Spotlight, was the done in the same way. It's not just an entertaining an amazing film; it's a definite call to action.
Based on actual events which had lasted throughout 2001, the film centers on a team of dedicated reporters from The Boston Globe who uncover one of the most infamous scandals in American history: child and sexual abuse within the Catholic Church. The team, led by Walter "Robby" Robinson and his three reporters (Mike Rezendes, Sacha Pfieffer, and Matt Carroll) raced against time to put the pieces of the story together and eventually got out it to the public. The report hit the cover of The Boston Globe in 2002 and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 2003 for its tenacious investigative journalism. It also exposed more than 240 priests accused of child molestation all over the world, as indicated in the epilogue before the end credits.
What made this film work so well is that it didn't set out to make the team look like heroes. It showed their humanity and intense focus on exposing the disturbing truth about the scandal and its cover-up. Director Tom McCarthy brought a remarkable sensitivity in telling the story, and he definitely found the right cast to the play the real-life reporters. Mark Ruffalo continues to prove that he is one of the very best actors of his generation with his incredible portrayal of Rezendes; Rachael McAdams, arguably giving the most fully realized performance of her career, portrayed Pfieffer; Michael Keaton, once again giving a stunning performance, played Robinson; and Brian d'Arcy James is a revelation as Carroll. Liev Schreiber (subtle and subdued), John Slattery, Stanley Tucci, and Jamey Sheridan give amazing supporting performances and round out the cast.
There are some truly standout scenes, many of them quite intense, especially the moment where MacAdams asks a former priest about his past. This is particularly chilling because he nonchalantly admits not only molesting children but also being a victim himself. Another great scene has James walking around his neighborhood (in a brilliant tracking shot) and finding the house where disgraced priests go for treatment, just a few blocks away from his. These and other scenes elevate the film and give it the feel of a horror film.
It's no surprise to see why Spotlight was nominated for six Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director (Tom McCarthy), Best Screenplay, Best Film Editing, Ruffalo for Best Supporting Actor, and MacAdams for Best Supporting Actress. A film like this helps to realize that not only can movies entertain people but also make a difference.
There's only a few special features, such as three featurettes: Uncovering the Truth: A Spotlight Team Roundtable, which has members of the real-life team of The Boston Globe talking about the story and its impact; Spotlight: A Look Inside is a short piece about making the film; and The State of Journalism shows members of the cast and crew talk about the dying age of investigative journalism. There are also previews for Steve Jobs, The Danish Girl, Suffragette, Nightcrawler, and Mr. Robot.
Spotlight is going to be a film that will be talked about for many years to come; it's smart, well-written and very accurate. If it is eventually chosen to be on the National Film Registry, then that will a no-brainer.
Spotlight is now available on Digital HD, and comes to Blu-ray combo pack, DVD and On Demand on February 23, 2016, from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.