When I saw the trailer for Co-Writer-Director Tom McCarthy‘s latest, Spotlight, I knew it was going to be a winner with its knockout cast and compelling material. Then I saw the film and it didn’t meet my expectations–it exceeded them.
The film tells the story of the Boston Globe’s investigative team, Spotlight, and how over the course of 2001 and 2002 they investigated and broke the story of the Catholic Church’s child abuse scandal. When new editor Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber) arrives in Boston from Miami, he asks why no substantial investigation was done into a priest who was accused of child molestation. The editors and reporters have no answer for him, Baron assigns Spotlight to look into the story. The team is led by Walter “Robby” Robinson (Michael Keaton) and includes Mike Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams), and Matt Carroll (Brian d’Arcy James). Aside from the moral reason to tell the story, everyone on the team has a stake in seeing the investigation through. Rezendes is a passionate crusader, Sacha comes from a deeply Catholic family, and Matt has kids. However, as they dig into the story, they find just how much power the Church has in the Boston community as lawyers and civic leaders come out of the woodwork to try and derail the investigation at every turn. The search begins with a lawyer, Mitch Garabedian (Stanley Tucci), who is bringing suit against the Church on behalf of multiple victims. He is reluctant to help the investigation at first, convinced that the Church is out to get him, but he directs the team to Phil Saviano (Neal Huff) leader of a victims’ support group. They also make contact with a former priest who turned whistleblower, Richard Sipe (Richard Jenkins), but of course, no one really listens to him. The team faces multiple obstacles as they try to drag the corrupt priests into the light.
The first thing that strikes you about Spotlight is the fantastic cast that McCarthy has assembled to tell this story. Then the story itself pulls you in. It is a highly compelling story told with expert efficiency. I thought I might have liked a little more insight into some of the investigators’ motivations, but then realized just what a great job McCarthy and Co-Writer Josh Singer do in keeping the focus on the story and the investigation. I love investigative journalism films like this one and Spotlight hits on all cylinders. I was completely engaged in the story and found that no matter how much I thought I knew about the Catholic Church scandal, I was still shocked at the revelations in this film. It’s just a well-told, highly important story.
The cast is absolutely stellar. Everyone brings their A-game. The whole Spotlight team is great to watch with Ruffalo and Keaton leading the way. Keaton plays Robby with the confidence of an actor at the top of his game, while Ruffalo brings a firebrand energy to his portrayal of Rezendes. Schreiber is very good as the odd man out trying to make a change in the highly Catholic community. This isn’t the first time McAdams has tackled a role like this, as she previously knocked State of Play out of the park, and she does an equally good job here. John Slattery brings his Roger Sterling charm to the role of editor Ben Bradlee, while Billy Crudup is great as slimy lawyer Eric Macleish. Tucci delivers a typically great performance as he plays the paranoid Garabedian and Jamey Sheridan also does nice work as a conflicted lawyer who is a friend of Robby’s.
Spotlight, but it’s scary good. The film hits every mark from acting to writing to directing. On top of the fantastic filmmaking, it tells an important story that everyone should be made aware of. It’s not just a great film, it may just be the best of the year. See it.