Sunday, 31 January 2016

All The Pope's Men

Journalism. A profession which involves a lot of writing, a bit of research, and occasionally, some changing the face of a country. There was Watergate in 1972, the revelation of the extent of the NSA's surveillance in 2013, and there was even The Daily Telegraph's discovery of the MPs Expenses scandal in 2009. But the journalists of today's film did not just upset a nation. They upset a worldwide institution. This is Spotlight.

The 'Spotlight' department of The Boston Globe are a specialist group of investigative journalists headed up by Walter 'Robby' Robinson (Michael Keaton) and when the new boss, Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber), takes over the running of the Globe, he notices an old article on child molestation by a priest. Eager for the story to be followed up, Robby's department is nominated to look into it. The process is simple - Matt Carroll (Brian d'Arcy James) looks into the old clippings on the topic, Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams) looks into the potential victims, and Mike Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo) runs around the city looking for any more leads - but what they discover is much more difficult to handle. Several dozen covered up cases of molestation by priests in the Boston area, and the revelations just keep coming.

The Spotlight team

It is rare for a film to completely embrace the notion of an acting ensemble; a cast that works as a unit, all cogs functioning in harmony to create a riveting piece of cinema. There is no lead in the traditional sense, there is four of them. Of the four, Ruffalo's Rezendes particularly stands out from the pack. He is the most energetic of the group, dashing into offices, charming information out of Stanley Tucci's Garabedian, and essentially pestering anyone who might know anything. But this is a cast all at the top of their game. Keaton continues his fine form after Birdman last year, and this is easily a career high for McAdams and d'Arcy James.

Michael Keaton and Rachel McAdams as
Walter 'Robby' Robinson and Sacha Pfeiffer 

Spotlight is not comfortable viewing. Around every corner there is a further revelation that takes us deeper into the rabbit hole of the church's actions and their cover ups. What makes Spotlight so exciting, however, is the thrill of finding out how deep that rabbit hole goes and how the characters navigate through that darkness to gain their answers. Written with wit, intelligence, and sincerity, the film perfectly balances a disturbing subject matter with a light handling and effective editing. Take a scene where two victims are interviewed simultaneously and the camera cuts between the two, never allowing the audience to listen to a full dialogue, but exposing the full story through the similarities of the two testimonies. Its narrative is gritty, but it is honest; the Catholic Church have even praised the film for its representation of the facts.

There a few examples in film that so clearly demonstrate the snowball effect as the story grows larger and darker. The bitter taste left in your mouth as the credits roll remind you that his is real. That this happened. It is no All The President's Men - the film's closest relative - but the story is one that is just as worthy, if not more so, of being told. Spotlight does just that, and does it brilliantly.

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