“Spotlight” Sheds Some Light On A Difficult Time In Boston History

By Scott Kurland

Film: Spotlight
Starring: Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Brian d’Arcy James, John Slattery, Liev Schreiber, and Stanley Tucci
Rated R
Director: Tom McCarthy


We as Americans love scandals. We’re all just a bunch of gossiping gals when it comes right down to it. If something is going on in front of us we all feel compelled to talk about it; even if it has nothing to do with us. I mean let's be serious here America’s number one TV show is called “Scandal”. So it seems only fitting that this week's film is about journalists uncovering a church scandal, taking place right here in Boston. In 2002 America was just recovering from 9/11, and right here in Massachusetts the Boston Globe uncovered a huge cover up that involved the Boston Archdiocese. This week's film “Spotlight” is about those reporters who investigated those claims of abuse, and what they had to do to break the story. Let’s see if all the hype is doing this film justice shall we?

“Spotlight” begins in early 2001 with new editor Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber) coming aboard the Boston Globe. He wants to cover a story involving claims of sexual abuse within the Boston Archdiocese, but he wants it done right and not rushed. That leads Baron to call upon his own Spotlight team headed by Walter 'Robby' Robinson (Michael Keaton). Robinson’s team consists of himself, Mike Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams), and Matt Carroll (Brian d’Arcy James). While they dig deep through old files and gather interviews a town unites to help them and also shun them. The team learns how powerful these men of God really are. What culminates is a heart wrenching tale of what it truly means to be a journalist uncovering the biggest scandal in Boston history.

This film gets journalism right. I have to start off by saying that. Being a journalist is a very lonely job, filled with late hours and missing family events. “Spotlight” shows that loneliness; especially with Ruffalo’s character Mike Rezendes. The director of this film is Tom McCarthy, if that name sounds familiar it should. McCarthy has directed “The Station Agent”, “The Visitor”, and he wrote the screenplay for “UP!”. He also directed Adam Sandler’s “The Cobbler” which I said was one of the worst films of 2015. “Spotlight” is quite possibly the best film of 2015, and I am flabbergasted on how he pulled that off.

Everything he did wrong with “The Cobbler”, McCarthy atones for with “Spotlight”. His cast perfectly fits their real life counter parts. His script, which he co-wrote with screenwriter Josh Singer; is one of the most thoughtful and well written scripts I’ve ever seen. Also McCarthy gets everything right, and I mean everything. This is the first time Bostonians are portrayed  as Bostonians and not as that Seth MacFarlene cliche we saw in “TED 2”. McCarthy returns to his storytelling roots. That film making talent is what made him one of the most promising directors when he hit the scene in 2003 with “The Station Agent”. “Spotlight” isn’t just a great film it’s an excellent film, know what I’m just going to say it. “Spotlight” is a masterpiece and McCarthy should be proud because this is officially my favorite film of 2015 and quite possibly the film that will sweep the Oscars.

So many times I’ve heard the phrase ensemble cast and I never knew what it meant. “Spotlight” truly shows  us what an ensemble cast is. Every character plays well off each other. Every character is a fleshed out human being. Everyone has equal screen time, and it’s beautiful to watch them unravel this mystery. What I loved most was seeing Brian d’Arcy James, a well known stage actor get cast as Matt Carroll. D'Arcy James isn’t a well known actor of screen, but boy is this a strong performance. His scenes with Keaton, Ruffalo, and McAdams really come together nicely and these four are believable as a team of journalists that function as more of a family for one another. This cast is so good,  and I'm not just referring to the spotlight team. Liev Schreiber as Marty Baron, John Slattery as Ben Bradlee Jr., and one of the best performances Stanley Tucci has ever given in his long career as an actor. This is the cast that will be winning the SAG awards in January and you can quote me on that.

The two shining stars of “Spotlight” are Ruffalo as Mike Rezendes and Keaton as Walter 'Robby' Robinson. This Oscar season Ruffalo and Keaton may be facing off against one another for best supporting actor. Ruffalo’s intense performance may seal him the gold statue, but I dare you to watch Keaton’s reserved performance and not be moved to tears. “Spotlight” is an ensemble film, but Ruffalo and Keaton drive this film home. There’s a scene where Keaton’s Robby tells Ruffalo’s Rezendes they’re holding off on leaking the story. Keaton stays calm and in control, while Ruffalo is losing his mind. He is completely taken over be anger in this scene. These two extremes make for some of the most intense acting I’ve seen in years. Ruffalo goes after Keaton with his harsh words, and Keaton doesn’t bat an eyelash. These two actors gave me chills, and I bet dollars to donuts one of them will sweep the awards race.

“Spotlight” is this generation’s “All The President’s Men”, tackling a difficult but true subject matter. Sitting behind me in the screening was a former writer for the Globe. He was a writer at the time of this scandal. I had the privilege of speaking with him before and after the screening, and when I asked him how McCarthy did he said this and only this. “It’s all true, that’s what happened”, he then got up and walked away. “Spotlight” left this man speechless, it’s one of the best films of all time; and hands down the best film of 2015. “Spotlight” opens nation wide on Friday November 20th, but is playing in Boston and other select theaters like Waltham. Do yourself a favor and see this film.


REVIEW RATING: A+
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