Spotlight is essentially All the President’s Men transposed for the Catholic child abuse scandal at the turn of the millennium. Featuring an all-star cast including Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Liev Schreiber and Rachel McAdams it documents the lengthy investigation at the Boston Globe that led to the uncovering of one of the biggest scandals of the last 100 years.
A newspaper office is the perfect setting for a film. The high pressure environment and often critically important decisions that are made mean the stakes are high enough for serious drama, while allowing for a focus on a few key characters. So while the office in Spotlight might be better lit and have a few more computers than All the President’s Men the atmosphere is the same. And both films expertly capture the nature of journalism at its best.
It’s pinned down emotionally in a way never achieved by its Oscar rival The Big Short, thanks to well-written and believable characters. Mark Ruffalo is particularly outstanding, playing a youthful enthusiasm in spite of his grizzled hair. Liev Schreiber is also brilliantly understated as the newspaper’s new editor.
It’s fantastically bold, as Hollywood is normally reverential towards religion. It tackles the subject head on and is totally uncompromising. It’s a testament to the persistence of the real life journalists that this film is now able to be made. While The Big Short is guilty of revelling in the excess of the scandal it seeks to expose, Spotlight treats its subject matter with the utmost respect. But it’s also gripping throughout, expertly showing the conflict in characters, the impact of their taking on great power and the consequences of a conspiracy of silence.