Movie review: Spotlight

Where the Post had Ben Bradlee, the Globe had Ben Bradlee, Jr.

spotlightIt appears that every movie I’ve seen lately, most recently Spotlight, is designed to tick me off. The subject of my ire this time is the Roman Catholic church that allowed its priests to prey upon its young, vulnerable members. Not only did they do nothing about it, the system allowed priests to get transferred to other parishes to continue their misdeeds.

All this I knew coming in. What was interesting in the telling was this: once upon a time, great metropolitan newspapers actually took on the system, even when that system is the mighty RC church in Boston. One truly chilling moment in the movie was one priest’s rationalization why his actions weren’t so bad. Beyond the pain I felt from the physical and emotional abuse of the victims was the loss of faith and trust the now-adult victims experienced.

Some have compared Spotlight with All the President’s Men, and I think it would be fairly apt. Instead of two disparate reporters from the Washington Post trying to make sense of Watergate, there’s the special unit of the Boston Globe (Rachel McAdams, Brian d’Arcy James, and the headstrong character played by Mark Ruffalo). The group is headed by Walter ‘Robby’ Robinson (Michael Keaton), attempting to ascertain the scope of the church scandal.

Where the Post had Ben Bradlee, the Globe had Ben Bradlee, Jr. (John Slattery), plus a cerebral new boss (Liev Schreiber). The closest thing to Deep Throat is an infuriating, possibly crackpot lawyer (Stanley Tucci) who was representing some of the victims.

At one point, the team asks someone who had studied the phenomenon whether it could be as many as 13 priests in their area. Of course there were far more, and not limited to the Boston diocese. In fact, the end of the movie lists all the areas in the country, then the rest of the world, where pedophile priests were rooted out. This included Albany, NY, first on the alphabetical list, as the nearly sold-out crowd at the Spectrum Theatre in the city noted.

The other great sadness of this story is that the events happened early in this century, yet the level of investigative reporting has all but disappeared, due to budget cutting. This is not a flashy movie, but is solidly made, occasionally tension-inducing narrative, despite the fact that we largely know the outcome.

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. i hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

4 thoughts on “Movie review: Spotlight”

  1. Another of those strange coincidences – I was about to leave this comment when Spotlight was mentioned on the radio in the context of the Oscar nominations.

    Anyway, we have had the same issues with the RC church covering up for abusive priests in the UK. And like the US, we relied on investigative journalists to uncover the truth. With the loss of so many local newspapers and cut backs in reporting staff, it is debatable whether this will continue to be the case.

  2. Seen in Sheffield, England this week. As you say it is not a flashy movie. It relies mostly on dialogue. Hurrah for the real life reporters who brought this scandal into the light. It paved the way for successful investigations in other places.

  3. Right on, Roger. I couldn’t agree more with your review of the movie, which wad very well done and inspired a mix of emotions. I agree too about the larger societal comment about the decline in investigative journalism.

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