spotlight-one-sheetHow far would you go to uncover the ugly truth? At the center of the new Tom McCarthy-directed and co-penned film Spotlight is the investigation into one of the most powerful institutions in Boston — the local Catholic Archdiocese — and the rampant abuses of power and cover-up of sexual abuse cases among the clergy.

It’s not a pretty tale by any means, but one told from the viewpoint of the investigation spearheaded by the Boston Globe’s Spotlight division. As the film opens, the four-person investigative team led by Walter Robby Robinson (Michael Keaton) and including dedicated staffers Mike Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams) and Matt Carroll (Brian d’Arcy James) are awaiting the appointment of a new boss at the Boston Globe. The teams intermediary between themselves and management is Ben Bradlee Jr. (John Slattery), who also signs off on their choice of topics. It’s not long until we meet the aloof Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber), who has come to run the paper from Miami and is ready to make waves right off the bat.

It’s 2001 and the Internet is starting to slowly bite into the newspaper business and Baron is seeking ways to make the paper remain vital. Rather than have the Spotlight team choose a story that he feels is less than interesting, he suggests a follow-up story on the church and their abuse of power. With this being Boston, one of the largest Catholic cities in the U.S. and with a Catholic school right across the street from the Globe offices, not everyone is convinced it’s worth pursuing.

But once the door is open and Spotlight digs into the case, what follows is an ever-growing conspiracy of cover-ups that have been perpetrated for decades in Boston that suggests even a wider pattern of looking the other way. Rezendes attempts to earn the trust of Mitch Garabedian (Stanley Tucci), a tenacious but overly cautious lawyer who has been fighting the good fight against the church who have stonewalled him at every turn. Pfeiffer and Robinson dig into the validity of some of those who have spoken out against the church and the investigation begins to ruffle the feathers of some of Robby’s longtime contacts.

The screenplay co-written by McCarthy with Josh Singer crackles with energy as the Spotlight team chips away at the cover up, while also becoming a little more frightening as we learn that things are way bigger than ever expected. The film also addresses the ideals of dedicated journalists and how far they’ll go to uncover the truth even when it may hit closer than wanted to home.

It’s a fine acting job all around by the cast, but as there is no true lead, look for the best to happen come awards season being an ensemble honor at the SAG Awards. However, McCarthy and Singer could be in line for attention for the sharp script and keeping the intensity going in this film. As Spotlight is based on real events, you likely know the outcome going in, but McCarthy makes sure that the journey getting there is well worth every minute on screen and the final credits just make the story that much more powerful.

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Posted by AC