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November 26, 2015

Spotlight (***) R

 Actor turned filmmaker Thomas McCarthy has rebounded nicely after the savage reviews that dogged his last film, The Cobbler, released earlier this year. His latest, Spotlight, has the look and feel of the great investigative journalism films—All the President’s Men and Zodiac serving as two examples—that Hollywood has put forth during the last quarter century. If it feels a bit emotionally aloof at times, and it does, that may be part of the overall scheme of things as presented by McCarthy. Even so, it’s hard to dismiss a film that tackles such an incendiary topic as the Catholic sex abuse scandals of the early 2000s in a mostly compelling fashion.

The film is based on true events and McCarthy and his crackerjack production team must be commended for getting the look of feel of the time period just right.

Michael Keaton, Liev Schreiber, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, John Slattery and Brian D’Arcy James In Spotlight

In particular, the newsroom of The Boston Globe, which is as much of a character in the film as any of the principles in the film, has been reproduced in such a way that one would be hard pressed to differentiate between this and the actual location where the bulk of the film’s story transpires. So much so that I was truly astonished to learn later on after my viewing that the film was not shot at the actual offices of The Boston Globe.

The story is pretty well known at this point. It’s roots go all the way back to 1962 but it wasn’t until 2002 that it actually broke and became a national scandal, the fallout of which continues to this day.

That doesn’t prevent its retelling from being any less interesting, thanks largely to its cast.

Michael Keaton, fresh off his critical heat from his appearance in last year’s acclaimed film Birdman, is Robbie Robinson, a ring leader of sorts at the paper. Robinson is best described as the glue holding everything together once the pieces of the story start coming together and more and more damning evidence begins to rear its ugly head. Mark Ruffalo as reporter Michael Rezendes is the most passionate of his peers in his quest to get the story out to the public and Keaton’s Robinson serves as somewhat of a cooler head, prevailing upon Rezendes to wait until the time is right. Other notable roles are filled by Rachel McAdams, appearing as something of a left hand to Ruffalo’s character, doing all the leg work required in amassing the amounts of research needed to get the story out to the public and Stanley Tucci, as an attorney who has control of a critical piece of the story, and is also a great addition to the proceedings.

Spotlight is competently directed and well acted and compellingly told. I didn’t exactly feel the emotional connection that I was expecting but that’s not to say that this isn’t great filmmaking. It’s a story that definitely needs the treatment it’s now getting. Spotlight is playing in Charlotte.

Questions or comments? Write Adam at



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