Movie review: Spotlight

Run Time: 129 min
Classification: NC16
Genre: Investigative thriller
Grade: 3.5/5

How do you uncover a secret without getting overly emotionally involved, write a good story and do some people justice? Sounds like the job of a journalist? It certainly does.

Actor-director Mark Ruffalo had the challenging task of playing a journalist who broke a story that took the world by storm.

On Jan 6, 2002, The Boston Globe had published one of its biggest stories in history. It was time that people all around the world knew of a great sin in the history of the Catholic church.

Entitled "Church allowed abuse by priest for years", the article was an investigative journalism piece done by the Spotlight team in the Globe.

Inspired by an actual event, the movie 'Spotlight' portrays the whole process of highlighting sexual crimes of the Catholic church, where several Catholic priests were accused of sexually abusing young boys in Boston over a period of 30 years.

The team, consisting of reporters Matt Carroll (Brian d'Arcy James), Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams), Michael Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo) and Walter V. Robinson (Michael Keaton), spent months uncovering the evidence against the guilty parties involved. The article was written by Rezendes, according to the Globe.

The film, directed by Tom McCarthy, also stars Liev Schreiber, Stanley Tucci and John Slattery as Ben Bradlee Jr.

Photo: Shaw Organisation

The plot centres on Father John Geoghan who was reassigned several times to various parishes after allegations of child sexual abuse were made against him.

The pursuit of the issue began at the end of July 2001 when the Globe had a new editor, Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber), who insisted on the follow-up of a column written by Eileen McNamara. The article reported on lawsuits pertaining to a priest allegedly involved in sexual abuse of young boys. A single, Jewish man who doesn't love baseball, Baron didn't gain the favour of his team but once the reporters started digging deeper, bits and pieces of the inconsistencies of the church began to surface.

As the Spotlight team began tracing the alleged 13 priests who were suspected of molesting young boys, it was soon discovered that six per cent of the total number of priests in Boston could be guilty of this heinous crime. The number ballooned to 87 and the reporters soon find themselves at a road block.

Climax hits when the endless chasing seemed to be futile, but Baron steps in to push the reporters in a different direction.

Ruffalo's portrayal of one of the key journalists who worked on the story was pretty convincing as he portrays a sensitive and compassionate journalist who wants to do the victims some justice. His performance was emotionally charged and he had a role in highlighting the ethics of journalism through his struggles and the decisions that he had to grapple with. This is a refreshing change from his performances in other films such as superhero movie 'The Avengers' (where he played Hulk) and thriller-mystery film 'Now You See Me'.

The build-up to the plot was rather slow and the bombardment of the names of the priests at the start can get confusing, but you need to be patient as the best parts come in the second half of the film.

This film challenges status quos and highlights some societal issues, albeit in the US, but with such a riveting story and better-than-expected performances from Ruffalo and the others, this film stands out. It celebrates the bravery of journalists and casts a spotlight on what good investigative journalism is.

Spotlight opens in cinemas here on Jan 21.

stephluo@sph.com.sg

See also: Coming soon: Movies opening on January 21 and 22