During the snow days, there were only so many ways to amuse myself at home before I just needed to get out of the house. And since the roads near us were fairly well cleared, and I only needed to use major roads to get to a movie theater, I decided to head outdoors and continue on my Oscar-watch. This time I was going to watch Spotlight, a movie about the investigative journalists who blew open the child abuse happening in the Catholic Church – this wasn’t a new story, but they were the ones who found out the scope and systematic cover-up of what had happened, and how high it went.
This isn’t a fictional story, so unless you’ve been completely out of touch with the news for two decades, none of what happens in the movie are spoilers So you’d think that a movie based on fact would not make for a great thriller. Like most true stories that are made into great films, it’s not what happened, but how and why it happened. And that’s what Spotlight does beautifully. And while there are some “action”-ish sequences of running around, trying to get stuff done, and some people are threatened…none of it is traditionally threatening.
What we do have is a looming threat, and the need to be sure before our heroes publish. If the story isn’t exactly right – if it isn’t big enough, doesn’t have enough evidence or oomph – it will be swept under the rug and discounted by the Church. As a librarian, I love seeing research and journalism (which is hopefully the result of good research) portrayed on the screen, and it’s satisfying to see facts layered and built up to provide the basis for a sweeping, hard-hitting story.
It was also fascinating to watch the movie for the time period in which it took place. The movie begins in early 2001 – a simpler time before 9/11 changed everything. And then we see that story, and how it affects the Spotlight team. We see them pulled away from this story they’ve been working for months, only to go back and rededicate themselves to the story, publishing in the still emotionally raw months just after the attacks. It’s hard to remember how new putting news content on the internet was, how you could go and find supporting documents and additional information, and how it felt different and fresh. Seeing the team working with paper, doing their jobs without the benefit of cell phones…it’s amazing to think that this was the world 15 years ago.
The cast is amazing all the way around. Both Rachel McAdams and Mark Ruffalo were nominated for Academy Awards for their supporting roles, but nearly any one of the main players could have been nominated. Seeing how the team starts out nonplussed by the story, and eventually become so emotionally involved in it is what makes this a great movie. It’s an important film, and definitely worth your time. You’ll find yourself on the edge of your seat and surprised. But maybe not.
More Information: “Spotlight”, written by Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy, directed by Tom McCarthy. In theaters.
Nominations: Best Picture, Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Best Actress in a Supporting Role, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Editing.