In my mind the greatest film about journalism ever made has to be 1976’s All The President’s Men. While the new film Spotlightwhich is centered on the Boston Globe‘s 2001 exposé of sexual abuse by local priests in the Boston Catholic Church, doesn’t eclipse that great Alan Pakula film, it just about matches it in every way. And as I say in my video review (click the link above), it just might be more important now that ever. With the decline of newspapers and the fact that rich, vibrant investigative reporting is slipping into the background in today’s media, a movie like this  reminds us just how important this vital work can be.

pete hammond review badgeDirector Tom McCarthy and his co-writer Josh Singer have crafted what is essentially an investigation of an investigation. They dig deep into the details of what the Globe‘s Spotlight team did in unveiling these long-running molestation episodes by priests in Boston, and the subsequent cover-up by very high levels in the church. The movie powerfully conveys all the tenets of great, dogged, never-give-up journalistic practices that make one proud to be a part of that profession.

As this film points out, this kind of abuse would still be covered up had not one Marty Baron (played nicely by Liev Schreiber) taken a new job at the Globe and urged his reporters to get more aggressive in covering local issues, particularly this one. The movie does not sugarcoat anyone’s culpability in all of this, even the Globe‘s past sins of burying the story under their nose or, at the least, not paying it the attention it deserved. But considering the state of media and jounalism even since these events happened nearly 15 years ago, it’s powerful stuff to see the importance of what these reporters did as a team.

In terms of its cast, “team” is an apt way to describe this ensemble. They are portrayed as a team, with near-equal weight. There are no leads in this film, just a group of terrific actors playing off each other in the pursuit of real and cinematic truth. The casting could not have been better: Michael Keaton nicely underplays editor Robbie Robinson but has a couple of moments of exceptional power; Mark Ruffalo steals every scene he’s in playing the determined bulldog reporter Mike Rezendes; Rachel McAdams is perfect as the resourceful Sacha Pfeiffer; while Brian D’arcy James brings depth to researcher Matt Carroll. John Slattery is also very fine playing Ben Bradlee Jr. — an ironic twist considering Bradlee’s father was front and center in All The President’s Men. A big shout out also to Stanley Tucci as a initially resistant lawyer for the victims.

And speaking of the victims, those crimes against them are blessedly not shown, but in their scenes the pain of the memories comes through more effectively than it ever would have had what happened been sensationalized here. McCarthy’s direction is spot-on in every way and he knows how to deliver an entertainment, no matter how serious the subject matter; Spotlight is extremely suspenseful. An end crawl showing where this kind of abuse by priests is still going on around the globe is a defining and final touch to this extraordinary film.

Producers are Michael Sugar and Steve Golin of Anonymous Content and Nicole Rocklin and Blye Pagon Faust of Rocklin/Faust. Participant Media also played a key role in getting this movie made. Open Road opens it today in limited runs and widens nationwide over Thanksgiving.

Do you plan to see Spotlight? Let us know what you think.