‘Spotlight’ – Film Review

The utterly gripping story of how The Boston Globe exposed child abuse within the Catholic church

In 2001, a small group of journalists at The Boston Globe newspaper picked up a story about a paedophile priest whose crimes had been ignored by the Catholic church. Their investigation led them to a conspiracy of silence within the church, which had been covering up for a huge number of child molesters in its midst. The terrible things this four-person team uncovered grew into one of the biggest news stories of the 21st century so far.

It’s a serious, stomach-churning subject and director Tom McCarthy’s dramatisation of the investigation is clear-eyed but furious. This is proper grown-up filmmaking, with fiercely intelligent people doing incredible things and expecting you to keep up with them.

Appropriately, McCarthy makes his film with the practicality of a journalist pulling apart a story. It’s not prettily shot, although it’s constantly in motion and shows you just what you need to see to put together the plot. It doesn’t depict any of the abuse it’s discussing but lets those who remember it paint the horrible picture. It’s a salute to the incredible things great journalists can do, digging at stories those in power would sooner leave alone.

Seemingly deliberately, despite being set just 15 years ago, the film is made to look old-fashioned because it shows a newspaper world that barely exists now – making a difference, but not making any money.

McCarthy’s gathered a gift of a cast, including Michael Keaton cementing his comeback as the leader of the team and Mark Ruffalo as a journalist whose schlumpy character and Kermit The Frog-ish voice belie a brilliant mind.

It’s not easy to get talky dramas made these days and the passion required to release this film shouts out from every moment. It doesn’t waste a second of its time and, for all the horrible events it examines, it’s surprisingly uplifting – suggesting that when something truly evil happens there will be someone who wants to put it right. No tights or capes, but this is a film about superheroes.

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