Saturday, 8 February 2020

Movie review: Spotlight, dir Tom McCarthy (2015)

This engrossing movie about the media won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2016 in a field that included the brilliant ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’, the competent ‘The Martian’, and the stunning ‘The Revenant’ (which I also saw but did not review).

‘Spotlight’ has good performances by Michael Keaton as Walter Robinson, head of the Spotlight investigative team at the Boston Globe, and Mark Ruffalo as Mike Rezendes, a Portuguese-American reporter in the unit.

But I’m making a mistake. All the leads are good, including Rachel McAdams as Sascha Pfeiffer, another reporter in the unit, Liev Schreiber as Marty Baron, the newspaper’s editor, and John Slattery as Ben Bradlee Jr, another senior editor at the paper.

In fact, the directing is solid and the major characters are credible and compelling. A complex and satisfying film that tells a now-familiar story. There have been investigations into clergy child sexual abuse around the US and around the world. In many cases they are still playing out.

I saw another movie about the media a couple of years ago. That was ‘The Post’, directed by Stephen Spielberg, about Watergate.  Both films demonstrate why journalists make good movie subjects. You have the first inkling of wrongdoing, the slow build, with suspense, as more facts are uncovered, predictable pushback from parts of the community who stand to lose something if a story goes public, and then a climax as the story goes public and the reactions start coming in from the community.

In McCarthy’s film the final phase of this sequence of events takes place, in the film’s closing minutes, as members of the Spotlight team converge on their office along with other Boston Globe staffers delegated to answer phones. Low-key? Maybe, but I found poetry in these moments. I saw the film on Netflix.

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