In 2002 the Boston Globe launched a series of articles about paedophile priests abusing children in the city since the 1970s. The newspaper’s focus was Cardinal Law, who shuffled the priests from parish to parish, and a systematic cover up by the Roman Catholic Church.

Oscar nominated drama, Spotlight, concerns itself with the journalistic work of the Globe’s investigative ‘spotlight’ team rather than individual cases of abuse. It’s a wise decision by director Tom McCarthy (Win Win, The Visitor). The occasional victim testimonies are Spotlight at its weakest, failing to measure-up to the acute, unsettling accounts given in Amy Berg’s Oscar nominated documentary Deliver Us From Evil (2006).

As with Berg’s film and HBO’s television documentary Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence In The House Of God (2012), which explore similar cases in Northern California and Wisconsin, Spotlight raises questions about Church-run ‘treatment centres’ and the role of wider celibacy issues on its attitude to self-preservation.

Chiefly though, Spotlight is a positive film about investigative journalism. With its attention to details and organisational politics, it feels like a decelerated Aaron Sorkin drama (Steve Jobs, The Social Network). McCarthy’s screenplay is co-written with Josh Singer, a former staff writer on Sorkin’s The West Wing, and gently teases out the emotional and spiritual impacts on the spotlight team. Playing lead journalist Mike Rezendes, Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher) gives a finely tuned performance: determined, passionate and shaken by the revelations. Audiences seeking a similar emotional response might be better seeking out Amy Berg’s documentary, meanwhile Spotlight provides a compelling insight into the crucial role of investigative journalists.


VERDICT: ★ ★ ★ ★ 4/5


Certificate: 15
Running time: 128 minutes
Images: © 2015 – Open Road Films

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