It’s pretty easy to get sucked into the typhoon of fact gathering and story unraveling at the center of Spotlight, especially as someone who works in a newsroom. In the actual newsroom, the televisions are always turned to CNN, where every small detail is labeled as “breaking news.”
Kathy is calling for an end to all the heretics. Donnie said something stupid over Twitter and his campaign may be going in the toilet. Benny is mixing up two wildly different events and claiming to know all things.
There is a difference between a true breaking news story — one that can shatter the glass — and one that is just becoming minusha in the constantly moving news cycle. Spotlight is a movie about getting it right, not moving too early, and reminding us that even when we have good intentions, we aren’t always be the white knights galloping to the rescue.
Directed by Thomas McCarthy from a script by McCarthy and Josh Singer, the film looks at the investigative team for the Boston Globe — known as Spotlight — and their investigation of child molestation by priests in the Catholic Church and the cover-ups that happened for years.
The team — played in the movie by Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, and Brian D’Arcy James — take to the streets — looking at lawyers, local figures, and friends to uncover what they don’t realize is a giant iceberg of hidden information.
McCarthy doesn’t direct the movie in any flashy ways. It is restrained, minimal, and definitive. He doesn’t reel out too much line, giving the actors as much as they need, and that comes from working with professionals. The whole cast is a unit, working at a constant speed so no one link is greater than the chain. Keaton may be the head of the train, but he doesn’t run away. Ruffalo, James, McAdams, Stanley Tucci, John Slattery, and Liev Schreiber pull their weight and add to the tension that mounts throughout the film.
Spotlight is about process, and the unromantic way that journalists must uncover information. At times, the film is slow, but that is just part of the flow. Near the end of the film, Marty Baron (played by Schreiber) says that a lot of the times journalists are “walking around in the dark” and Spotlight takes this to heart. Moment after moment in the film, the characters will stumble upon something that seemingly came out of thin air, adding to the overall stress of the film’s story.
The locomotive plot is what builds tension and keeps the audience on their toes. But the key to Spotlight is in its reminder of solid fact, and how that is the end-all way. Media culture today has become a business of getting there first with each news source trying to crown themselves the Sir Edmond Hilleary of each and every story.
Spotlight is about getting everything right and then moving forward. It is about the power of concrete, solid information and how that can trump anything that may stand in your way. With the addition of the Catholic Church in the film, this hammering point can come in the form of the blindness of faith and the realization that humanity is all around us, even in our parishes. While faith and religion are a staple of society, rationality and facts reign as well and without those we would be sitting in the dark, unable to see what is swimming around us.
The quest of knowledge and understanding shouldn’t be just isolated for journalists, and the greatest thing that Spotlight can promote is the challenge to find definitive proof and to not shy from challenging a greater authority even though there is a comfort and history to it. While the plot deals with the Catholic Church versus the Boston Globe, there is a lesson that can be learned in the smaller scale and the frustration with pointless, minusha information that we come in contact with daily.
Spotlight says wait first because what we have will be worth getting out there as soon as possible.
This may not be my favorite movie of the year, but it is easily one of the most well-made. McCarthy crafts a story that is as sharp as the actual reporting done, and creates an atmosphere that is seeped in the importance of information and facts. Journalism has re-branded since the days of the Boston Globe investigation of the Catholic Church, but Spotlight is a reminder of its most basic tenets — tenets that reign supreme in life as much as newspapers.