Co-written and directed by Tom McCarthy, Spotlight is based on the true story of a team of journalists at the Boston Globe newspaper, investigating allegations of child sex abuse at the hands of Boston priests, which is thought to have been covered up by the Roman Catholic Church.
In 2001, new editor of the Globe, Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber) meets with veteran reporter Walter “Robbie” Robinson (Michael Keaton) and discovers that Robinson heads a small group of investigative journalists known as “Spotlight”.
Baron reads a small column in the paper about paedophile priest John Geoghan and a lawyer who believes Cardinal Law, Archbishop of Boston, knew that Geoghan was sexually abusing children and yet, did nothing about it. Baron then urges the Spotlight team to investigate the story. Alongside Robinson is hot-headed but passionate Mike Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo) and Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams) who has one stand out scene where she actually persuades an abuser-priest to talk candidly at the front door.
Spotlight might not have the thrills of David Fincher’s Zodiac (2007) or even Kevin Macdonald’s State of Play (2009), but its shortcomings here are insignificant compared to its strengths. It is a gritty, solid piece of no-nonsense, no-frills, old-school, procedural investigative journalism where reporters knocked on doors, trawled through newspapers cuttings and didn’t rest until the job was done. The editing cuts are sparse, a good decision, giving you, admittedly brief, a sense of time and scale of the investigation and the work that went into it. McCarthy and Josh Singer’s script is meaty, packed, yet economical. Nothing here, much like the nature of the investigation, is wasted.
The Spotlight team would later receive a Pulitzer Prize for their efforts, and rightly so. Their accolades are well deserved, just as those that await McCarthy, Ruffalo and McAdams are. Best film of the year so far? Without a doubt. But, it’s only January and there is a lot more to see. However, it will take a few special films to knock this one down the charts.