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CINEMA: The global impact of Spotlight revelations

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Michael Keaton in serious reporter mode in Spotlight

Michael Keaton in serious reporter mode in Spotlight

Published: 29 January, 2016
by DAN CARRIER

SPOTLIGHT
Directed by Tom McCarthy
5 Stars

THE story of how a small team of reporters working for the Boston Globe smashed open the horrendous issue of widespread child abuse within the Catholic Church – and set in motion a global exposé of sex offenders and a giant, institutional cover-up – is the starting point for this extraordinary, newsroom-based drama.

The Globe has a special investigations unit known as Spotlight – a team of journalists who are given the time and resources to get their teeth into serious exposés.

We meet them as a new editor breezes into the newsroom with an agenda to cut the costs of the newspaper, and find a way of making it relevant in a world where old-school print journalism is under pressure. 

The Spotlight team are headed by Robby Robinson (Michael Keaton in serious reporter mode). When new editor Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber) takes over the top desk, the newsroom are wary: as well as the cuts they fear, he isn’t a Bostonian, isn’t Catholic, and perhaps doesn’t quite “get” how the city works. He doesn’t, he admits, like baseball and has no interest in using the firm’s Red Sox season tickets. He is a new broom – and seemingly a cold fish.

But his outside-the-establishment stance makes him the perfect person to get the Spotlight team to turn their talents to finding out how priests have used their dog collars to get away with criminal abuse and have had their crimes covered up by the highest echelons of the church. 

In that most Catholic of America cities it means at every turn there are entrenched interests that the reporters have to battle with – and stepping over the threshold without any pre-conceived ideas means Baron is the right editor at the right time. 

Mark Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams) and Matt Carroll (Brian d’Arcy James) are the intrepid reporters who work the shoe leather to find victims willing to tell their stories, pore over documents to gather evidence and try to find chinks in a wall of silence that the paedophile priests are hiding behind. 

All turn in believable and moving performances. 

Director Tom McCarthy has created a version of the Robert Redford/Dustin Hoffman Watergate classic All The President’s Men for our times. This is subtle, exciting film-making. It also has a sense of responsibility – as the film makes clear in the closing credits, it is dealing with a global crime that has ramifications being felt today. It does so with a sense of care that is admirable. 

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