I so wanted to be a journalist by the end of this movie. As the credits rolled, I kept thinking what a noble profession journalism is when it’s not about sensationalism and how maligned it’s become, especially during this presidential campaign season. Which is another way of saying I loved “Spotlight.” Finally, a film that more than deserves all the accolades and prizes it’s garnered. The acting, the writing, the direction – all first rate.
Based on true events, it’s the story of the investigative unit of the Boston Globe that, in 2001, spent many months getting to the truth of the sex abuses by Catholic priests and exposing not only the guilty priests but the monumental cover-up at the highest levels of the church. The so-called spotlight team won a Pulitzer for their work, and in this movie we see why.
Michael Keaton leads the team, and as good as he was in “Birdman,” he’s even better here because the part is less showy. He and his reporters, played by Rachel McAdams and Mark Ruffalo, among others, are as committed to their jobs as they are to the Catholic church having been raised in it, so their conflicts abound. Their investigation is boots-on-the-ground hard work, overseen by their new editor, played by the always good Liev Schreiber, and by “Mad Men” star John Slattery as Ben Bradlee, Jr. There’s no romanticizing of the investigation, no glamorizing and, best of all, no speechifying. These journalists speak like real people, not characters from a screenwriter’s imagination. And the result is surprisingly suspenseful – a thriller without the car chases and snarling villains. It’s a straightforward exercise in filmmaking, and it’s all the more engrossing for it.
And yes, I’m putting “Spotlight” on my Best Picture list for Oscar time – a no-brainer.