SPOTLIGHT – REVIEW – All the Pope’s Men sees Birdman and the Incredible Hulk lead a newspaper investigation in Boston to bring down endemic child rape in the Catholic church.
Boston has not had a good year in film. First Black Mass reminded everyone of Whitey Bulger and now Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight throws light on the pedophilia scandal that broke in the Catholic church there in the early oughts. Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber) is the new editor of the Boston Globe and is cordially feared as the new broom who has come in to sweep through another series of cuts, but the first in many surprises it turns out that he also wants to gee up the investigative team on the paper, the Spotlight section, and get them doing something relevant to the city. He prods team leader Walter Robinson (Michael Keaton) to have a look at a story of a cover up of child abuse scandal involving a Catholic priest. With the rest of his team Matty Carroll (Brian d’Arcy James), Mike Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), and Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams) they begin to meticulously uncover a massive systemic problem. As one of the former victims tells them, with over half of all priests violating their vows of celibacy an atmosphere of secrecy and collusion exists where such aberrant behavior can go unchecked. Stanley Tucci also turns up as Stanley Tucci, a lawyer who has been pursuing the church for years and is highly suspicious of the staying power of the journos.
Both a timely reminder of the scandal itself, the aftershocks of which continue to this day and a heartfelt peaen to the kind of investigative print journalism which is becoming ever rarer – the Spotlight team might only do one story a year – Spotlight is an old-fashioned procedural in many ways but it has the heft and the wit to build its own case without histrionics or outrageous villains. The whole of Boston is to some extent at fault and the journalists themselves are left to examine their own consciences rather than run victory laps. A sober and fascinating film.