SPOTLIGHT directed by Tom McCarthy (USA, 2015)
Holy shit! Never has this exclamation carried more significance.
Based on actual events (isn’t everything?), the shit uncovered by the Spotlight team of fearless reporters of the Boston Globe at the turn of the Millennium indeed had the holiest of stenches.
The Roman Catholic priests in Boston who molested and abused young boys and girls turned out the be the tip of a dung heap of global proportions. As the credits roll, the printed list of subsequent cases found in parishes around the world is enough to make Jesus and the rest of us mere mortals weep.
Anything which widens the scope of the negative publicity against the hypocritical church establishment is welcome but I doubt that the Pope is quaking in his satin slippers after seeing this lackluster movie. In toning down the sensationalist elements of the story, it becomes more of a celebration of investigative journalism than a full-blooded indictment of this holy disorder.
A helpfully prominent calendar on the office wall continually reminds us that the events depicted took place in 2001. In this year of 9/11, the rapid expansion of online news items was already eating into sales of newspapers. This fact is referred to briefly by the Globe’s conscientious new editor Marty Baron (played by Liev Schreiber) but the Spotlight team are strictly old school. They scribble in notebooks, plough through dusty archives and the footage of newspapers rolling off a printing press as the big story breaks gives the misleading impression that the Boston Globe’s readership share their rejection of the digital age.
These nostalgic aspects of the movie distract from the real issues here. Too much of ‘action’ focuses on the news gathering and the frequent montages fail to inject any real dynamism into the drama.
Mark Ruffalo delivers such a twitchy, mannered performance so that at any moment you wouldn’t be surprised if he turned into the Incredible Hulk. Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams and Brian d’Arcy James play the rest of the team members and their acting is, like the movie as a whole, solid but unexciting.
In consequence, a film which should leave audiences feeling full of rage ends up being quite dull. Being awarded the Oscar for Best Picture was surely a political decision because as a piece of cinema it is at best worthy, at worst woefully unimaginative.
Furthermore, anyone naive enough to think that a successful movie alone will change attitudes should read Geoffrey Robertson’s The Case Against The Pope which shows that the Vatican remains an enemy to the advance of human rights by systematically shielding paedophile priests from criminal trail.
An example of this comes from one of the prominent priests the Spotlight team exposed. In 2001, Cardinal Bernard Francis Law resigned from his position in Boston as part of the of the church’s so-called ‘healing process’. A caption at the end of the film tells us that two years later the Pope promoted him to Archpriest in Rome!
Holy shit indeed!