Spotlight Review: The Truth Hurts

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For a journalism movie, Spotlight is initially almost entirely devoid of energy. We’re thrown into the world of the Boston Globe, a publication that editor Robby Robinson (Michael Keaton) calls a small town paper. He runs the Spotlight team, an investigative unit that uncovers the city secrets. Most of them had been small until 2001, when they started looking into the priests of the city and where cases of them molesting children have disappeared to.

The film barely has an opening scene, or even an introduction to its characters. Admirably, there are very few Hollywood moments in the first 40 minutes. Director Tom McCarthy just wants to deliver this story, which speaks for itself, for what it is. But in trying to avoid straying from anything but the truth, a sizable chunk of the film is presented in a flat out boring manner. There’s nothing to latch onto in the first act. But once Michael Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo giving the only truly outstanding performance here) and Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams), members of the Spotlight team, start interviewing the priests’ victims, Spotlight gets injected with a little bit of emotion that carries all the way through to the end credits.

The closer the team gets to the actual publishing of the article, the better the film gets. And when Robby starts to question the ethics of his hometown and his field, things suddenly get much more interesting. What was initially presented as black and white when they started investigating the church, gets muddled and grey. It’s the best thing about the film.

Still, the process of getting there is a slow one. Had Spotlight found a way to begin with a hook while sticking true to the already fascinating story, it would have been a much better film. Thankfully, it becomes a very good one if you’re patient. Grade: B+

By Matt Dougherty

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