Alan J. Pakula made a film called “All The President’s Men” about “The Washington Post” reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein who uncovered the details of the Watergate scandal that led to President Richard Nixon’s resignation. Almost 40 years later Tom McCarthy has made a film which may be just as important and shocking as the tale of the Watergate. Spotlight is a film about 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. It’s an eye opener for me and even though it’s a subject known too well to the American masses, I somehow feel that it holds a much greater value and pull for people like me who were totally oblivious of the story.
The film is an investigative journalism piece in the same line as “All The President’s Men” but has its own way of approaching the subject matter. The story starts slow with the introduction of the Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber) the new editor of the globe with a radical view towards the news and what is important to make the paper an essential commodity for the masses. He engages the Spotlight team (A four member task force of The Boston Globe involved in investigative Journalism) into getting deeper into the story involving the molestation of a child by a father which eventually leads to the much bigger picture. As the team starts uncovering the truth behind the incidents they come into contact with more and more victims who had for so long remained unheard. Soon enough Spotlight has enough proof to declare war on the Archdiocese.
I was glued to the proceedings from the very first scene. The fact that I really love films of this sort made it just that much more interesting for me. Having said that, even if you are not a lover of this genre, chances are you will still find this film immensely entertaining and engrossing. The story moves ahead with every scene and with every expose, we get a few steps closer to the paper bringing down the curtains on the Archdiocese. The investigation is shown in great details but is envisioned and executed in a manner which will be highly entertaining. The viewer is kept abreast of the situation and the manner in which the story unfolds is lucid and easy to follow which further increases the pull of the film. I just loved the way this film is shot. Documentary style and yet beautiful angles and hardly any shakes or jerks. The camera pans and sways in a dramatic fashion giving you an exotic cinematic feel to an overtly grim and realistic story.
The performances are terrific. Mark Ruffalo plays Mike Rezendes, the man who wrote the article that let the cat out of the bag in 2002. Ruffalo has gone to great lengths to get the mannerism and style of the man right and at many junctures he ceases to be Ruffalo and becomes Rezendes. I just loved the scene where he has an outburst on Michael Keaton’s Walter ‘Robby’ Robinson after he refuses to publish his article even after he has enough proof against a father. Keaton carries on his good work from Birdman. He turns in a wonderfully nuanced performance as Walter who actually gets Baron’s point when he says that their task should be to bring the whole unscrupulous Archdiocese to the fore and not one man. Rachel McAdams is adorable as Sasha Pfeiffer. She shares some stunning scenes with a victim when he narrates his story to her in a very casual manner. The way she reacts through her eyes which by the way don’t parry with her reactions is wonderful to watch. Stanley Tucci is great in a small act.
Spotlight is an immensely entertaining film. It never for once gets too heavy on the senses nor does it ever pose a challenge to comprehensibility or end up preaching. It flows through its visuals and drama and makes you a party to it as it moves through its narrative. The performances are believable and the fact that the film addresses such a horrific issue only increases its shock value and interest quotient. I had a little issue with the fact that they never for once show the people guilty in this film. I felt they needed to show us the demons but then I realized on subsequent viewings that this film unfolds from the Spotlight team’s perspective and they for once couldn’t have seen the perpetrators face to face apart from mentions in legal documents or other such documented proofs. thus the perpetrators being off screen is only natural.
The film makes it a point to take a minimalistic and very realistic approach to the story and I believe that was the only way to go about it. The dialogs seem real and there is practically no jingoism about it. The background score is minimal but suits the mood and feel of the narrative. This is the kind of film which you can watch and re-watch for varied reasons. It has a unique characteristic of not getting stale even though we know it scene for scene. I still find myself watching All The President’s Men atleast once or twice every year and I believe that will be the case with this film as well. If you are interested in watching absorbing dramas that have an interesting and important story to tell, then Spotlight should be right there on top of your watch list. It is a must watch.