Spotlight USA 2015

Wednesday March 16th at 3.40 p.m.


There is a final opportunity to see this Oscar winning film. I suspect that the members of the Academy voted for the film partly to demonstrate their social awareness in a year when they need good publicity. And then probably partly because it a traditional genre film with a well-written script, good production values and an impressive roster of actors/characters.

The film falls into a cycle of journalist movies. The most famous of these is probably All the President’s Men (1976) and that is clearly an influence on this film. There are several scenes where there are visual crossovers, including in the offices of the newspaper and then one with Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams) researching the story in a public records library. Pfeiffer also interviews the surviving victims of the abuse that is the focus of the story. These are a distinctive feature and extremely well done. And the mise en scène constantly reminds us of the guilty party – the Roman Catholic Church in Boston. In an engaging actual parallel – Ben Bradlee edited the Washington Post during the Watergate investigation: his son Ben Bradlee Jnr. was Assistant Managing Editor at the Boston Globe during the Spotlight investigation.

In other ways the genre influence is not always for the best. There is a fairly long sequence as Mike Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo) waits to access legal records that are key to the completion of the story. This is played for suspense but the plot does not really justify this.

The film also fit into a cycle of films set in the city of Boston. Criminality and noir seem to be something of a constant. But the religious presence in the city is also a constant. The other earlier film that I was reminded of was The Verdict (1982 ). In that film Frank Galvin (Paul Newman) is fighting the church in a legal battle over medical incompetence. Apart from visual moments there is also a parallel with Walter Robinson (Michael Keaton) of the Spotlight team: both have to come terms to mistakes in their past.