4 stars
Often the best films that come out of Hollywood are ones based on true events and the more controversial they are, the more power they have to resonate.
Co-written and directed by Tom McCarthy (The Cobbler, Win Win), Spotlight leaves you drained and angry, having borne witness to a series of cover-ups by an institution that is supposed to be up-holding the moral code of Christianity but, in this case, is more in line with the morality of an anti-Christ.

In 2001, ‘Spotlight’, the investigative unit of The Boston Globe newspaper, was encouraged by the paper’s new editor Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber – Fading Gigolo) to research the nefarious activities of a paedophile priest, John J. Geoghan, and their rumoured cover-up by Boston’s Archbishop, Cardinal Law (Len Cariou - Prisoners). The team’s subsequent investigation of the Roman Catholic Church ended up rocking the very foundations on which it stood, for the unit learned that Geoghan had been abusing children for years and was just one of a great many paedophile priests in Boston, that most Catholic of cities. It also led to the discovery that the Church was well aware of the problem but had never attempted to address the matter properly; in fact, its way of dealing with the offenders was to simply transfer them to another parish where, not surprisingly, their crimes were committed again… and again and again. ‘Spotlight’s’ uncovering of this shocking behaviour opened the door to public knowledge of the sexual abuse, not only in Massachusetts, but all over the USA, and it earned the newspaper a Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.

McCarthy has created a film that doesn’t deal with the child abusers themselves but rather with those who allowed their evil behaviour to continue. Baron encouraged his team to nail the institution itself, rather than the individual perpetrators and this is what makes the film so powerful. A top-notch ensemble cast represent the major characters: the dogged reporter Mike Rezendes is played by Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher), the measured and sympathetic journo Sacha Pfeiffer is interpreted by Rachel McAdams (Southpaw), researcher/reporter Matt Carroll is depicted by Brian d’Arcy James (Sisters), and the ‘Spotlight’ chief, Walter ‘Robby’ Robinson, is portrayed by Michael Keaton (Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance). ‘Robby’ has to answer to his boss Ben Bradlee Jr., admirably played here by Mad Men’s John Slattery (Ted 2). The chameleon Stanley Tucci (The Hunger Games trilogy) is once again extraordinary in his role as one of the principal lawyers defending the victims while having to deal with the dodgy lawyers who supported the Church’s hypocrisy. Each of the ‘Spotlight’ journalists played a pivotal role in unearthing the story but, cleverly, the writers have kept a question mark over a few of them for we learn that, some years earlier, The Globe had received a tip-off about paedophiles in the priesthood but someone on staff deemed it too hot to handle. Could one of the team be trying to suppress the story again? Remember, the Roman Catholic Church was all pervasive and all powerful in Boston at that time.

Spotlight will make you ask “why?” the regime chose to try and sweep its sins under the carpet and “how?” it got away with this immoral behaviour for so long. But then one remembers that Boston wasn’t an exception in this regard, especially when the end credits role and hundreds of Roman Catholic Dioceses around the USA are listed as having similar scandals of their own, along with many others in the world (including 20 or so within Australia). It is particularly disheartening when just recently we learned that the ex-leader of the Sydney Archdiocese, who was transferred to the Vatican a couple of years ago, has claimed he is too ill to return to Australia to give evidence in a number of not dissimilar cases as those committed in Boston all those years ago. It proves that old habits die hard in entrenched institutions and that, sadly, not much has changed since the days of ‘Spotlight’s’ exposé.


Previewed at Sony Theatre, Sydney, on 12 January 2016

Mark Ruffalo
Michael Keaton
Rachel McAdams
Liev Schreiber
John Slattery
Stanley Tucci

Tom McCarthy

Josh Singer
Tom McCarthy



128 minutes

January 28, 2016
Spotlight (2015) on IMDb
Stacks Image 21553
Stacks Image 21556