‘Spotlight’ a well-produced look inside investigation of abuse scandal

Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo and Brian d'Arcy James star in a scene from the movie "Spotlight."  (CNS photo/Open Road Films)

Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo and Brian d’Arcy James star in a scene from the movie “Spotlight.” (CNS photo/Open Road Films)

Michael Gerard | Special to The Michigan Catholic

Spotlight / Entertainment One (2015)

When my wife texted me John Serba’s 10 Best Movies of 2015 posted on MLive.com, I did not look at it right away. Everyone has a Top 10 List for something or other; however, when I got around to it, I noticed director Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight, a film about the Pulitzer Prize-winning work of a team of investigative journalists employed with the Boston Globe. In a yearlong investigation under the leadership of the newly hired Globe editor Marty Baron, the special team called “Spotlight” uncovers the child sexual abuse scandals that in 2001 rocked the core of Boston’s religious, legal and government institutions.

McCarthy blends the talents of his cast of players including Michael Keaton (editor Walter “Robbie” Robinson), Rachel McAdams (reporter Sacha Pfeiffer) and Mark Ruffalo (reporter Michael Rezendes) so well that while there are many fine moments, no one actor stands out (or is meant to). This is truly an ensemble piece and a joy to watch.

The storytelling throughout is a straightforward, low-pressure thriller without the sensationalism, plot tricks and trappings that Hollywood loves. Instead, we are presented with the marvelous results of McCarthy’s great cast that also includes Stanley Tucci, a lawyer who helps the Spotlight team, and Billy Crudup, a lawyer involved with the cover-up.

We know that the guilty parties will be found regardless of the outgoing Globe editor’s funny, yet telling response to the question from Spotlight team leader Robinson who jokingly asks, “Is there anything you can tell me?” The entertainment value is in the way in which these investigative reporters work with Baron, who wisely paces the investigation toward its final devastating effects on not only the Archdiocese of Boston, but on Boston’s legal and government systems. At the end of the film in a moment of candidness at the sparsely attended afternoon showing, I said to the audience members, “These reporters are the REAL saints!”

Thomas McCarthy’s Spotlight may not claim any nominations for Best Actor or Best Supporting Actor at the Oscars, but it sure has a claim for a Best Film nomination. The real “spotlight” in this film is not on the horrific scandal within the Catholic Church worldwide that changed everything. One can read about that anywhere. Rather, the spotlight is on the wonderful performance of McCarthy’s talented cast who searches for truth. The gospel writer John states it nicely, “Then you will know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free” (8:23).

Michael Gerard teaches English at Fr. Gabriel Richard High School in Ann Arbor and he is the President and CEO of The Tanager Group including Tanager Words.