Saturday, December 05, 2015
Spotlight (2015 film)
Directed by Thomas McCarthy and written by McCarthy and Josh Singer, Spotlight is the story of reporters for The Boston Globe who uncover a major scandal involving sexual abuse of children in the hands of Catholic priests in Boston in 2002. The film is a dramatization of the events that would shake up the world of Catholicism in the hands of a group of journalists who struggle with their own upbringing as well as uncovering the truth to an entire city. Starring Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schrieber, Brian d’Arcy James, Billy Crudup, John Slattery, and Stanley Tucci. Spotlight is a riveting and exhilarating film from Thomas McCarthy.
Set from the summer of 2001 to early 2002 in Boston at The Boston Globe, the film revolves the famed Spotlight investigative journalist team who are asked by the paper’s new editor to do a story about a sex abuse scandal involving a Catholic priest at a parish in Boston. There, the journalists not only uncover more about what happened but also cover-ups and the fact that they themselves had a chance to tell the story years ago but never did. It’s a film that isn’t just about a sex scandal involving priests who abused children for many years in Boston but also the fact that the Catholic church in Boston was willing to cover up and do things in their power to pretend that it never happened. Even as the journalists try to figure out what are they hiding as they realize that this is bigger than one priest but an entire city that was involved and maybe the entire world.
The film’s screenplay by Thomas McCarthy and Josh Singer opens with a chilling scene of priest making a settlement with lawyers over a sex scandal which establishes what is common in Boston that people know but don’t want to talk about. It then cuts to the arrival of new Boston Globe editor Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber) who is aware that he has to gain the trust of the staff including the Spotlight team where he asks them to follow-up on a column about a sex abuse scandal from a Catholic priest. Leading the Spotlight team is Walter “Robby” Robinson (Michael Keaton) who is joined by Michael Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams), and Matt Carroll (Brian d’Arcy James) as they were looking for something to do where Rezendes would try to talk to attorney Mitchell Garabedian (Stanley Tucci) is reluctant to talk publicly to Rezendes yet eventually reveals what is at stake.
With the team talking to victims as well as revelations that they had a chance to tell the story years ago when Robinson was part of the team. While Robinson does admit guilt on his own part for not taking the chance to cover the story, he would redeem himself in not just going further once it becomes clear that the story is bigger than one parish but rather a whole city. Especially as it becomes clear that many who work for the paper are Catholic where they seem to know what is happening but they are either too scared to reveal what happened or are in denial. By the film’s third act where it becomes clear that there is evidence to get one priest to finally confess about his actions. Robinson realizes that it’s not one name they need to go after but the almost 100 names that they’ve uncovered including one living in Carroll’s neighborhood.
McCarthy’s direction is quite engaging for the way it plays into the atmosphere of the newspaper world where many are struggling with the new age of internet news and the decline of print. Even as it plays into events such as 9/11 as the world of the newspaper and journalism is a very busy one where many colleagues talk and socialize about what stories to tell. McCarthy’s usage of tracking shots, wide, and medium shots don’t just play into that atmosphere but also help flesh out the drama where the camera would pull back in scenes where the Spotlight team try to gather whatever they can use to tell the story. While McCarthy does use close-ups for some intimate moments where the characters talk to victims or what they do in their personal lives as it relates to Pfeiffer accompany her grandmother to church on Sundays. It helps establish not just what kind of city Boston is but also why it has this very unique relationship with the Catholic church.
McCarthy would also know how to build up drama such as a scene where Rezendes gains access to old testimonial records with the aid of Garabedian as he tells the team that they should unleash the story now. Yet, it becomes clear that these scandals have taken a personal toll for the team as well as one of its key editors in Ben Bradlee Jr. (John Slattery) who admit to being a lapse Catholic. Even as there are those who were thinking about returning to church to regain some idea of faith but the scandal has damaged that faith as they aren’t sure if revealing this to the city would destroy all of that for those who still believe in the church. It adds to the dramatic conflict as the decision that is made doesn’t just hit home for the entire team but would also for an entire city and maybe the entire world. Overall, McCarthy creates a chilling yet visceral drama about a group of newspaper journalists uncovering a sexual abuse scandal in their home city.
Cinematographer Masanobu Takayanagi does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography from the usage of natural lights for many of the daytime exteriors as well as the usage of lights for the scenes set at night in the interior/exterior settings. Editor Tom McArdle does amazing work with the editing as it‘s mostly straightforward with a few jump-cuts for dramatic purposes as well as montages to play into the team at work. Production designer Stephen H. Carter, with set decorator Shane Vieau and art director Michaela Cheyne, does fantastic work with the look of the set of The Boston Globe building as well as the room where the Spotlight team works at plus the home of a few characters in the film.
Costume designer Wendy Chuck does terrific work with the costumes as a lot of it is casual with the exception of the clothes that some of the priests and cardinals wear. Visual effects supervisor Colin Davies does nice work with the minimal visual effects in the film which is essentially set dressing for some of the exteriors to make the city look like Boston circa-2001. Sound designer Paul Hsu does superb work with the sound to play into the atmosphere of the rooms at the Boston Globe to the machines where the papers are printed and other parts of the city. The film’s music by Howard Shore is brilliant for its very low-key piano score that has a few orchestral flourishes as it‘s mostly straightforward to play into the drama as well as the heaviness of what is happening while music supervisor Mary Ramos provides a more low-key soundtrack filled with bands based on Boston that only appears in the background.
The casting by Kerry Barden, John Buchan, Jason Knight, and Paul Schnee is incredible as it features some notable small roles from Neal Huff as one of the victims in Phil Savino, Len Cariou as Cardinal Bernard Law whom Baron meets early in the film, Paul Guilfoyle as one of the people involved with the church in Peter Conley, Jamey Sheridan as one of the church’s attorneys in Jim Sullivan whom Robertson knows, Maureen Keiller as columnist Eileen McNamara who would create the column that would start the investigation, Gene Amoroso as investigative reporter Stephen Kurkjian, Richard Jenkins as the voice of a noted psychiatrist for the victims, and Billy Crudup as attorney Eric MacLeish who is reluctant to reveal the settlements he took part in as well as reveal some revelations about the paper. John Slattery is fantastic as Ben Bradlee Jr. as one of the editors of the Globe who tries to make sure everything Spotlight does is under wraps where he realizes how big the story is prompting to get Baron on their side.
Stanley Tucci is excellent as Mitchell Garabedian as a man who is trying to defend the victims as he is reluctant to provide information because of the church where he gives Rezendes tips about what to find. Liev Schreiber is brilliant as Marty Baron as the new editor-in-chief who tries to understand more about the world of the Catholic church in Boston as he is a Jewish man trying to see what is going on where he learns more about what is really happening prompting him to put more support on Spotlight. Brian d’Arcy James is superb as Matt Carroll as a Spotlight reporter who helps piece many of the stories and sources that happens while making a chilling discovery about how close to home the scandal is at.
Rachel McAdams is amazing as Sacha Pfeiffer as a Spotlight reporter who talks to the victims in the streets while she would also talk to a former priest only to realize more of what is happening as she copes with how the news will affect her grandmother. Mark Ruffalo is phenomenal as Michael Rezendes as a Spotlight reporter who meets with Garabedian where he would go into the records with Carroll and Robertson where he would later uncover a major breakthrough for the story. Finally, there’s Michael Keaton in a remarkable performance as Walter “Robby” Robertson as the Spotlight chief who leads the charge where he would make some revelations into what he discovered as well as carry the guilt that he had the chance to reveal it years ago where he realizes the chance to do things right for himself and for Boston.
Spotlight is a tremendous film from Thomas McCarthy. Featuring a great ensemble cast, an intriguing story, well-crafted direction, and top-notch technical work, the film isn’t just a fascinating newspaper drama. It’s a film that explores people coping with something they either knew or didn’t want to know as they try to find a way to expose it to their city and the world in the hopes that something like this never happens again. In the end, Spotlight is a sensational film from Thomas McCarthy.
Thomas McCarthy Films: (The Station Agent) - The Visitor - Win Win - (The Cobbler)
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