Spotlight is a throwback to socially interested films of the 1970s, when heroism was more ambiguous and less sexy (no muscle-rippled hunks blowing away bad guys, here.) This type of film is such a rarity in today’s cinema that Spotlight shines for that reason alone, but the filmmakers also practice a nuanced and subtle form of teamwork that complements their theme. From the excellent, measured ensemble performances to the un-showy camerawork, subdued music, and superb editing; all crafts work in harmony to propel the story and inspire both simmering anger and reflection in the audience.
The film is based on the true story of how a small band of reporters broke the story of sexual abuse and systematic cover-ups in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston. The screenplay is unsensational, although several of the actual people depicted in the film are unhappy with how they’re portrayed (not principal characters). From my perspective, the filmmakers seem to be saying, “We’re all responsible,” but it’s understandable that real people wouldn’t want to be depicted saying things they didn’t, especially when the topic is this sensitive.
On the other hand, Spotlight has been lauded by newspaper people for getting the work of reporting right – especially in an age of increasingly partisan, slapdash news presentation, this group is rightly depicted as heroes. You might recall All the President’s Men (1976). Roger Ebert wrote, “It provides the most observant study of working journalists we’re ever likely to see in a feature film.” Add Spotlight to the shortlist of excellent newspaper movies.