Sure to wind up in many 10 Best lists this year, this is the fascinating, true crime story of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Boston Globe investigation that revealed the Roman Catholic Church’s systematic ‘cover-up’ of pedophile priests. Spotlight is the name of the Globe’s investigative team, headed by Walter “Robby” Robinson (Michael Keaton) and comprised of Michael Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), Sarah Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams) and Matty Carroll (Brian d’Arcy James). They report to managing editor Ben Bradlee, Jr. (John Slattery), whose father figured prominently in the Watergate-themed “All the President’s Men.” Read on…
After the Globe was bought by the New York Times in 2001, there’s a new, cost-cutting boss, Marty Baron (Liev Schrieber), who is not only Jewish but also an out-of-towner. He fearlessly urges them to pursue molestation allegations against a single priest, a subject the newspaper has traditionally ignored under tacit pressure from Cardinal Bernard Law (Len Cariou) and officials in the Archdiocese of Boston.
Spotlight soon learns that it’s not an isolated incident. Indeed, scores of similar claims have been privately settled by the Church’s evasive attorney, Eric MacLeish (Billy Crudup), outside of the legal system, and those involving paperwork have been sealed by complicit judges. Thereby “turning child abuse into a cottage industry.”
Scripted as a fact-based, journalistic procedural by Josh Singer (“The Fifth Estate”) and director Tom McCarthy (“The Station Agent,” “Win Win”), it reveals the institutional conspiracy that protected these predators and perpetuated their heinous behavior, moving them from parish to parish.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t allow for much character development on the part of the Spotlight team, who doggedly pursue leads and interview victims and parishioners who are willing to talk. A notable exception is testy Mitchell Garabedian (Stanley Tucci), who steers them in the right direction when he realizes their serious intent.
Nevertheless, the entire ensemble scores – delivering solid performances.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Spotlight” is a taut, compelling 10, illuminating a timely, still-relevant issue.