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Sunday, April 24, 2016

Movie Review - Spotlight

Spotlight is a must-see film for anyone remotely concerned with the massive cover-up of pedophilia in the world’s religious institutions, particularly the Catholic Church. The story centers on the four-person investigative reporting team of The Boston Globe, known as Spotlight, who in 2001, cracked the case and figuratively opened a Pandora’s box of evil too horrible for most people to fathom. Fortunately, the Academy of Motion Pictures honored the movie with a Best Picture win for 2016, so hopefully more theaters will feature it in the coming months. 
Spotlight is a cerebral film that requires the viewer to be alert throughout every scene. It reminds me of a giant jigsaw puzzle, which may seem confusing at first, but comes together in the end and paints a glorious picture. The story starts off with Marty Baron (Liev Schrieber), who arrives from Florida as the newly appointed editor-in-chief of the Globe. At first, he seems boring and demure but soon makes it clear that he wants to flesh out stories that may not be too comfortable for the typical Bostonian. Case-in-point, he asks the Spotlight team to put a hundred percent of their efforts into a story by a fellow Globe columnist regarding sexual abuse allegations of Catholic priests in the Boston area.
Walter Robinson or Robby (Michael Keaton), head of Spotlight, and his team of independent journalists reluctantly agree to move forward with the story, harboring doubts as to whether anything will come of it. The power of the Catholic Church and its influence on the community make things difficult to get the information needed, but finally, victims come forward and a case is made against several priests in the area. However, Baron wants more. He isn’t satisfied with an expose of a handful of wayward clergy that the Church can summarily sweep under the rug. He wants to dig deeper and get at the conspiracy/cover-up/criminal policy of moving corrupt priests from parish to parish without any reprisals and/or warnings to future victims.
With no agenda up their sleeve other than to report the truth, the team sets out to uncover the story. Besides Robinson, there is Michael Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), Sachia OPfeiffer (Rachel McAdams), and Matt Carroll (Brian d’Arcy James), all of whom are true patriots and heroes of mankind. Each of us are indebted to them for their courage and tenacity.
Keaton and Ruffalo emerge as the leads in the film, with McAdams bringing in a close second. Ruffalo comes across as quirky and obsessive with a penchant for late night pizzas and all-night frantic research binges that make the viewer question his competence. But he proves his worth by relentlessly pursuing a victims’ attorney, Mitchell Garabedian (Stanley Tucci), who happens to be sitting on detailed court documents which could prove their case. However, the problem is the documents have been removed from the public record with no evidence of their whereabouts.
When McAdams lands an unexpected confession from a retired priest, the revelation hits the team that they are dealing with a broad, sophisticated cover-up that has been in existence for decades—just as Baron suspected. After months of piecing together the evidence, along with a bit of clever lawyering on Ruffalo’s part, the crucial court documents are recovered and the story is fully baked. Hundreds of perpetrators are implicated, with thousands of victims in their wake, and all fingers point to Cardinal Law of the Archdiocese of Boston. From then on, it is a race to publication before the Boston Herald beats them to it or the Church has the opportunity to bury it into obscurity.
****SPOILER ALERT****
Keaton is a more interesting character in that he is a life-long Bostonian with no desire to hurt his family and friends by exposing the ugly underbelly of the Church; he understands the importance of Catholicism and how integral it is to the fabric of the community. As it turns out, he had received evidence of these improprieties years ago but had buried the story out of fear. But now, his conscience will not let him look the other way. The cold truth hits him that that he could have easily been a victim had circumstances been different. Testimonies from close friends from his school days confirm his decision that Spotlight must “pull out all the stops” and expose these heinous crimes at all costs.
There is one last scene worth mentioning. In a personal moment between Ruffalo and McAdams, they discuss their perceptions on faith and how the Church’s criminal acts affect their views on God. Because I am a Protestant, it is difficult for me to understand the pain that this situation causes Catholics. To me, these acts are the work of evil men who should know better, but to Ruffalo and McAdams (from a Catholic upbringing), they are an outright betrayal by the Lord. My hope and prayer is that all practicing Catholics come to understand that the loving heavenly Father of the New Covenant does not hurt His children.

Spotlight is a great film that is worthy of its Oscar award. It is sure to stir up a lot of healthy discussion on the depravity of man versus the goodness of a loving God. The final moment is extremely moving: the morning the story hits the press, the normally quiet Spotlight office becomes inundated with victims’ calls, proving that the power of the pen wields mighty in the battle against evil! Let that be an encouragement to all of us writers who seek to reveal Truth!

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