"How do you say no to God?"
SPOTLIGHT is a film you hope doesn't need to exist. It's based on a true story. Usually when you see or hear those words, your skeptical antennae pop up, and rightfully so, given that most of the time the truthfulness lies mostly with an overarching theme, or simply a character's name. In this case SPOTLIGHT is spot on, and that's what makes it so infuriating. The story takes place in Boston in 2001. The Boston Globe has a faction, a small company of five that tackle the long-form reporting. Some reports take months, others even longer. They're known as the Spotlight team.
Unless you've been living under a rock, or perhaps are a part of the clergy, the plot of SPOTLIGHT should be well-known by now. For decades (centuries?), the Catholic church has systematically altered documents and relocated priests who sexually assaulted young children. SPOTLIGHT opens at a police station, where two cops discuss the events that led Father John Geoghan and two small children to be at the precinct together. Before long, another disciple of the church and lawyers show up and whisk Geoghan away into the night to an undisclosed city, biding time until he strikes again. Geoghan is the worst kind of human, a snake draped in robes, fangs hidden behind a warm and inviting smile.
Liev Schreiber plays Marty Baron, the new editor of the Globe. Soon after taking the post he reads a small column detailing the appalling, yet thrown-under-the-rug actions of Geoghan described by a local lawyer, Mitchell Garabedian (Stanley Tucci). Baron informs Spotlight to investigate further, setting the film's main push to action. The cast is exceptional all-around. Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, John Slattery, and Brian d'Arcy James complete the crew. Keaton stood out the most to me. He portrays Walter "Robby" Robinson, one of the most veteran members of the Globe. Robinson is the most conflicted of the group; his past indecision leads to a price his conscience has to pay. It's fun having Keaton back in good films so consistently. His face is weathered now; the lines on his face allude to his senior years.
Time plays an important role in SPOTLIGHT. Much of it is wasted in regards to the inactions of dozens of guilty parties. The neglect punishes no one but the victims, and there are plenty. Michael Rezendes (Ruffalo) and Sacha Pfeiffer (McAdams) do much of the leg work during the investigative process. Rezendes forms an alliance with Garabedian and frequently storms the courthouse, where shockingly he and the audience learn the churches manipulation of the judicial system is and has been open to the public since the beginning, dating the assaults chronologically. The proof is there and it simply sits like a festering wound. Pfeiffer goes door-to-door speaking to priests who have been found to be involved in the cover-up. And they're startlingly candid! One particular man openly admits to his transgressions, but affixes that he didn't enjoy it so how can it be so bad?
There are a litany of inconceivable moments like these throughout. The Boston Globe earned the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service from the shockwaves their probe unveiled. This pops up on the screen during the credits. A list of hundreds of cities from the United States and around the world follow, indicating just how far the scandal reached. SPOTLIGHT isn't about the journey, it's about results, and thankfully we're finally starting to see them. Still, it's impossible not to think of the millions of sufferers and what they endured, and you wonder how much time it will take for the scars to fully heal, if ever.