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Spotlight | movie review

Some people - *cough*Catholic priests*cough* - really don't like being in it.

 

Movie review: The true story of how the Boston Globe uncovered the massive scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese, shaking the entire Catholic Church to its core. (IMDb)


I don't really know what I expected going into Spotlight other than it had a reputation as damn good movie that was still fortunate to win Best Picture at the Oscars, leading me to wonder if I was somehow going to end up both impressed and disappointed at the same time. Fortunately, there was no disappointment for me, as I loved watching every minute of this and will spoil that it's definitely recommended


This is an incredible movie that tells the true story of the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation by the Boston Globe's Spotlight team into the widespread sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests in the Boston area - and by so many more priests than they could've ever imagined at that. But it's really the cast, which includes Mark Ruffalo as Mike Rezendes, that makes this movie work so well.


Mark Ruffalo delivers what I now consider his career-best performance as Rezendes, a determined investigative reporter who refuses to back down in the face of opposition. He brings real depth and nuance to the character, who could've easily been the 'angry guy' (not a Hulk joke, I swear) capturing both the intensity and the humanity of the real-life figure he's playing rather than feeling like a performance.


The performances of the rest of the cast are almost-equally impressive. Michael Keaton plays Walter "Robby" Robinson, the head of the Spotlight team and makes it clear why he's so respected by both his team and those with greater authority than him; Rachel McAdams, as Sacha Pfeiffer, brings both a fierce intelligence and gentle compassion to her role. A special word too for Liev Schreiber as Marty Baron, the new editor of the Globe, whose performance is now my go-to definition for 'quiet authority' when it comes to acting.


Reading a bit about the behind the scenes effort, I think what made the cast so successful is the amount of time they spent with the real people they're playing. They went to great lengths to capture the essence of their characters, and it really shows. All of the characters feel incredibly real, and the actors' performances have this powerful sense of authenticity that really makes the more emotional moments work all the better.


I will warn that the subject matter of Spotlight is both unsettling and shocking, but it's also vitally important as a result. The fact that these events really happened, and that they still aren't discussed enough today in my opinion, makes the movie all the more relevant. The filmmakers do an excellent job of getting across the horrific enormity of the crisis and the extent to which it was covered up by the Catholic Church.


In fact, one of the things that makes this movie so powerful is the way it depicts the Catholic Church's role in the abuse crisis - and not just in the States, as the list of cities before the credits roll detailing where abuses took place confirms. It's clear that the church was well aware of what was going on and disturbingly well-practiced at covering everything up while making sure the offenders were well looked after once their abuses became public knowledge.


Arguably, one of the best scenes in the movie is one without much talking at all. The Spotlight team is informed that there are most likely far, far more abusers in Boston than they could ever have imagined, resulting in such a lengthy silence from them that the person on the phone telling them the real number is far higher wonders if they're still listening. It's a very simple, yet powerful way to drive home the scale of things.


The pacing of the movie is also a key factor in its success. It moves along quickly, without ever leaving the audience behind or having characters have a eureka moment. Every step of the story feels like a believable flow of events, without any major details being left out or diminished. The team behind the film do an excellent job of keeping the movie engaging, while still allowing the audience the time necessary to absorb the gravity of the subject matter.


Spotlight is an outstanding movie that is entertaining while also proving highly educational. It tells an important story in a way that is both accessible and interesting to watch. I highly recommend this movie to anyone who is looking for a really well-made, thought-provoking film that will stay with you after it's over. Much like The Big Short, which it beat to Best Picture, it's a powerful and important movie that everyone should see.

[9/10 - Great]

 

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