la-et-mn-spotlight-review-20151106

There are spoilers in this review. Duh.

This will be my last of the Oscar movies I forgot to write about months ago. It was also my favorite. It also won Best Picture. Shockingly! I did think this was the best movie of those nominated, but I was convinced that The Revenant would win. Spotlight is personal to me for a few reasons, the top one being that I studied journalist and I was a journalist for awhile. An entertainment one, mind you, but I have a lot of respect for true investigative reporting. The Spotlight team at the Boston Globe is famous for a reason, they are brilliant, ruthless, and fearless. It was delightful to see them in action here, and especially on one of their biggest stories of all time. It’s common knowledge now that the church has a problem with sexual predators in their midst, but it wasn’t before this. It’s a hard movie to watch, but a necessary one.

In 2001, the Boston Globe gets a new editor Marty Baron (Liev Schreider). The staff is a little concerned what a new editor would mean, and he meets with the editor of the Spotlight team Walter “Robby” Robinson (Michael Keaton). Spotlight is famous for taking months of hard investigation to expose corruption in unexpected places. In this case, they hear that there may be cover up by the Catholic church to protect pedophile priests. At first it’s just one person they think is being hidden, but slowly the team finds out that it’s not just a rare case. It’s widespread. A priest is accused of it, and the church simply transfers them to a new location. No charges are pressed against them. The main team is made up of Michael Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams), Matt Carroll (Brian d’Arcy James) and supervisor Ben Bradlee Jr. (John Slattery).  Slowly the group uncovers the conspiracy, and there are two interesting lawyers involved with this. The greasy but once noble Eric MacLeish (Billy Crudup) and down on his luck stubborn Mitchell Garabedian (Stanley Tucci). Both claim that these complaints were at some point sent to the Globe, but nothing ever came of it. However, their investigation is immediately sidetracked when 9/11 occurs, and the Globe has to focus all their attention on that.

After getting sidetracked, they do come back to the story when they realize that there are public records that confirm the Cardinal Law covered it all up. But of course they can’t just take one man down, they need to go after the church that lets it happen. See, the entire time the story is happening, there are people trying to stop them. Influence them. Use the power and money of the church to keep it secret. Talk about corruption! They know this scandal will be a big deal. Michael gets frustrated when they won’t move on their evidence yet, that is the scene shown above. While Robby says firmly that they need to wait until they have everything in there to make sure they really stop it on a systematic level. They finally have it all ready and publish in 2012. Robby confesses that he did get a tip from the lawyer MacLeish and never followed up, leading to his guilt and determination to stop it now. The team sits there as the phones ring with survivors coming forward, as the numbers grow, realizing the weight of what was just uncovered. The screen showed a list of places in the US and around the world where scandals were reported. It’s a really depressingly long list.

So that’s Spotlight. I did a rough summary, but you really should see it for yourself. The performances are so emotional and it’s incredible to see those people working. And it’s a true story. Not a “true story” the way the Revenant is a “true story.” These are real people still working in the industry today who bravely fought against corruption and still are to this day. In a world where journalism is struggling, this was an important reminder. See, newspapers are falling apart, which we all know, because it’s all turning online. People aren’t buying them anymore. Newspapers are laying off reporters due to dropping business, which means the hard hitting journalists aren’t being able to get as much money and support as they used to. This is leading to the current feeling that journalism is all a lie or sensationalism and anyone can do it. But that’s not fair, because there are reporters, like the Spotlight team, like people at every news organization, that really cares about reporting the truth. This movie was just a reminder of that. Without those people, the world wouldn’t know what happened to those kids. No one would listen to them. And the next time something like this happens, we better hope the Spotlight team still exists, otherwise justice won’t really be coming. That being said, I loved the acting. Michael Keaton was a very low key member here, the calm center of it, and his confession at the end was heartfelt. I can’t say a bad thing about the movie. It was great (and heartbreaking) from beginning to end. Go and watch it.

 

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