By Alexis Eastman
Spotlight is the star studded journalist procedural of the decade, tearing back the curtain on the occasional disagreements between co workers of the Boston Globe’s ‘Spotlight’ investigative reporting team. The grey skies of 2001 Boston set the scene for the gently paced events unfolding in the generically bustling offices of a daily newspaper.
The story begins with the Globe staff trying to rectify with the tragic loss of their current editor due to his well-earned and on-time retirement. In the wake of this common occurrence, the reeling Board of Executives hires a white Jewish editor, Marty Baron. Liev Schreiber deftly tackles the role of Baron he even wears glasses, as the character was farsighted in real life. Baron faces minimal adversity regarding his lack of wife and non-Christian background during a conversation at a golf course with his new peers. The conflict really heats up when he asks a room of Bostonians to investigate the frequent reports of child abuse at the hands of Catholic priests - they are not actually that resistant to the idea.
Ruffalo plays competent investigator Mike Rezendes who is committed enough to his job to go the library sometimes. Ruffalo uses the role to showcase his dramatic chops. He’s not just a funnyman- you haven’t seen him raise his voice like this since Iron Man 3.
Rachel McAdams’ brave portrayal of Sacha Pfeiffer earned her an Oscar Nomination despite her figure masking khakis and muted stretch blouses. Pfeiffer is tasked with asking the pretty routine questions to generally cooperative survivors. But other questions still linger, like how could the church allow the abuse to go on as long as it did and who the hell is McAdam’s agent? The real heart of Pfeiffer’s character is her relationship with her Nana; it’s pretty limited and may or may not cause you to reflect on your own relationship with an elderly relative.
Michael Keaton’s pallor is matched by pale enthusiasm for his role as Walter ‘Robby’ Robinson- the somewhat fearful leader of the Spotlight team. The moment in which he threatens to implicate lawyer Billy Crudup/ Eric Macleish in a scandal involving his former clients is a scene that you actually might not remember. Crudup prepared diligently for his undeveloped character by probably watching American Psycho the night before going on set. In the low tension scene set in a courthouse lobby it is revealed that Robby had ignored some mail Macleish sent him years ago. Important mail.
John Slattery, best known for his charming portrayal of Roger Sterling on AMC’s Mad Men brings a mere molecule of that humour and energy to his role of Ben Bradlee Jr- a reporter at the Globe who is perhaps the most resistant to the solid police evidence and damning witness statements presented by the Spotlight team. His minimal doubt regarding whether or not he should break a story that would make his paper famous and save abuse victims provides just enough conflict to roll the plot into the third act. His lapsed Catholicism inspires a brief internal thumb-war between moral duty and theological loyalty and really makes you reflect on how, if you think about it, you may have never met a Catholic who isn’t lapsed.
Capping off the superteam comprising Spotlight’s cast is the indomitable Stanley Tucci portraying beleaguered lawyer Mitchell Garabedian. Garabedian is the type of ball busting lawyer that sensibly advocates for his clients and only lets journalists interview him after they ask nicely. On- set insiders tell us that Tucci wore the curly Garabedian wig for up to 5 minutes before shooting in order to get into character. He brings about 7% more energy to an already pretty straightforward story with very few obstacles.
Spotlight ends with everyone eventually agreeing to shine a light on a terrible injustice long hidden from the public eye. But even from the moment the movie starts, it kind of seems like you’ve seen it already.