By Megan Moore
BU News Service
There is no other statement that does this perpetually captivating yet heart-wrenching take on investigative journalism justice than to simply say, “Spotlight” gets it so unbelievably right.
The film follows Spotlight, an investigative team at The Boston Globe that uncover an outrageously high numbers of child sex-abuse allegations against Catholic priests in 2002. The movie looks at the extensive measures the church went through to cover these allegations up and the blind eye many in power turned to the hellish situation. Not only was the reporting on this issue solid, but nearly 600 articles in total were published and the team won a Pulitzer for its expose. The film was a solid portrayal of what long-form print journalism is all about.
The push for the story comes from The Boston Globe’s newly-instated editor, Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber), who sees the potential of what could come from a column written by Eileen McNamara (Maureen Keiller). The idea was pitched to Spotlight editor Walter “Robby” Robinson (Michael Keaton), Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams), Mike Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo) and Matt Carroll (Brian d’Arcy James). The team of reporters step away from their current project to take on more than just the priests accused in these allegations, but the Catholic system as a whole.
Though the outcome of the story is well-known, the reporting behind it is not. “Spotlight” accurately showcases the dedication, research and passion reporters have for bringing forth the facts and the truth. The reporters, coming from Catholic backgrounds, struggle with their own feelings about the story and the confidential restrictions they are under, while editors debate about how their more than 50 percent Catholic readership will react to the story.
Robinson faces the decision that all reporters encounter — how hard to go after the story, and the more gut busting question, “what took you so long?” Robinson battles this most after he finds a news clipping of the reports, first published in the metro section while he was the section’s editor years earlier. While they went unnoticed before, the film emphasizes what the imperfections of a newsroom can look like. Robinson guides his team of reporters while he answers to Ben Bradlee Jr. (John Slattery) who pushes Robinson to bring him more information. Robinson, as any good editor, asks Bradlee for more time on the story on numerous occasions so the story can encompass the bigger picture — the entire Catholic system.
Basic journalistic techniques show the extent of what reporters do to make sure a story is factually correct throughout the film. The team scours the archives, is turned away by a number of victims and spends vast amounts of time simply researching, setting up interviews and building relationships with victims. To stay true to the journalistic process, the film strays away from flashback scenarios and simply displays the accounts of abuse through interviews. Director Tom McCarthy doesn’t use these accounts for shock value, but rather sets up the narrative in a compelling way with horror gradually added.
The actors, decked out in frumpy ’90s-style clothing, truly portrayed the desperation to get a story right and the craftsmanship behind it. The obsessive behavior, the rushing around and the need for more information all push the audience to see the need for journalism.