There’s nothing quite like a good investigative journalism film.
Maybe it’s the drama of exposing unthinkable corruption? Or perhaps it’s the thrill of watching good, old-fashioned shoe-leather journalism?
What ever the reason, director Tom McCarthy’s,”Spotlight,” is definitely a good (if not great) investigative journalism film.
Based on the Boston Globe’s investigation of the Catholic Church, “Spotlight,” depicts journalism at its best.
Set in the early 2000’s, right before the accelerated decline of print journalism, and the onset of “citizen journalism” (think pre-Twitter and Facebook), “Spotlight,” tells a bigger story than that of the uncovered abuses of the Catholic Church. It shows the power and purpose of the press. In a world that labels the media as “the enemy,” it’s nice to have a reminder of the good the press can do.
Of course, the scandal at the heart of “Spotlight,” is an equally important part of the narrative. The personal connection between each member of the team and the Catholic Church’s organized cover-up of the abusive behavior of many of its clergy is one of the most riveting parts of the film. All are born and raised Catholic Bostonians, which raises the stakes, and heightens the emotion behind every action taken towards uncovering the scale of the story.
What the film gets right is that it doesn’t turn investigative journalism into something it’s not. There are no clandestine meetings in dark allies where top-secret info is exchanged, or improbable personal connections to sources that magically connect all the pieces.
There are long hours spent pouring over parish directories, tracking down potential sources (and potential dead ends), conducting interviews, and scrolling through spreadsheet after spreadsheet of data. No corner is cut. No decision made lightly, alone, or without considering all of the consequences. It’s tedious work, but it makes the payoff at the end all that more exciting and worthwhile.
It’s also the work of a team. “Spotlight,” is ensemble acting at its best. No one performance stands out against the rest, which is how it should be. It’s all the more impressive when you consider the Hollywood “names,” that appear in this film. Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, and Stanley Tucci are all equally magnificent. However, I would like to give a special mention to Brian d’Arcy James who plays Matt Carroll, a member of the investigative team. The relative “unknown” in the cast, he has quite possibly the best moment in the film when he hand delivers a copy of the team’s cover story to a “rehabilitation” home for abusive priests.
Much like good investigative journalism, “Spotlight,” works because it is done correctly. Nothing is rushed, no gimmicks are used, the story is told accurately and truthfully. Will it be enough to win the big prize on Sunday? We’ll see, but this film fan has her fingers crossed.
…just for fun: