Cast includes: Mark Ruffalo (Shutter Island), Michael Keaton (Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)), Rachel McAdams (Sherlock Holmes), Liev Schreiber (Salt), John Slattery (Mad Men), Brian d’Arcy James (Game Change), Stanley Tucci (The Hunger Games)
Director: Tom McCarthy (Michael Clayton, Up)
Genre: Drama | History (128 minutes)
“What arraignment?” Boston, 1976… whatever it is that’s going on at Police District 11… no one’s talking. Boston 2001… things are changing at The Boston Globe. As they celebrate Stewart’s retirement, everyone wonders how things will change once their new editor starts on Monday. Meanwhile, the Spotlight team is looking for their next story. Spotlight is a 4-person investigative unit that tackles deeper stories… the ones that take too long for the regular news division. There’s a case in Fall River that sounds like the old Geoghan case… a priest molesting children. Tackling that would mean challenging the protective order… “declaring war on the Catholic Church.” It’s not the kind of thing The Globe likes doing. Anyway, the new editor probably won’t want to take on such a thorny story right from the get-go. But Marty Baron surprises everyone. He doesn’t care that 53% of The Globe’s subscriber base is Catholic. Baron is Jewish, and he’s not even a baseball fan… nor does he want to be.
“These are shitty cases,” says Garabedian, the lawyer who handled many of them. He’s not allowed to share any details. But he does point out that there’s a 3-year statute of limitation and most of the victims don’t come forward until years later. What about that guy… Phil Saviano? He’s a bit of a nut case, but maybe it’s worthwhile just hearing what he has to say. “The church wants us to think it’s just a few bad apples, but it’s bigger than that.” Saviano has information about 13 priests in the Boston archdiocese. That number seems far too high, but Saviano does actually seem plausible. None of the victims want to be interviewed. The Spotlight team… Mike Rezendes, Matt Carroll, Sacha Pfeiffer and Walter Robinson, reporting directly to Ben Bradlee Jr… individually track down leads and follow clues… all the time wondering if this thing will even lead anywhere at all. In looking at the priests involved, they finally notice a pattern… “out on leave” and “reassigned.” This starts a new line of inquiry… following the priests, instead of the victims. They eventually learn the number of priests is likely to be even higher than 13. Meanwhile, Marty Baron has not wavered in his commitment. “Do you think Marty has any idea what’s coming down the pike?”
“I don’t think he cares.” It’s a refreshing attitude… unless they alienate the Catholic Church and turn out to be wrong. Spotlight is a methodical, clue-by-clue telling of what it took for The Boston Globe to develop the story that broke the sex abuse scandal wide open. It isn’t so much about the crimes and victims as the tedious work to uncover evidence that the church had kept hidden for over 30 years. Of course, we now know that Boston was just part of a huge web of cases and cover-ups. And once The Globe broke the story, it spread. It’s an exquisitely developed script with first-rate acting and direction. It’s not told with great dramatic flare. They let the accumulating weight of the evidence speak for itself. At one point, the team feels they have enough to begin publishing articles, but Baron doesn’t think it’s ready. “Focus on the institution, not the individual priests. Go after the system.” They do, and we now know the outcome.
4 popped kernels
The Spotlight team at The Boston Globe follows clues to uncover systemic corruption in the wake of mounting sexual abuse cases
Rated: R (Sexual Content, Crime)
Gender Style: Neutral
Distribution: Mainstream Wide Release
Tempo: Cruises Comfortably
Visual Style: Nicely Varnished Realism
Nutshell: Sex scandal in the Catholic Church
Language: True to life
Social Significance: Informative & Thought Provoking