Saturday, November 21, 2015

Spotlight (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway


Director Kevin McCarthy (The Visitor) spins a true journalist's tale about The Boston Globe's Spotlight team and their investigation of the Catholic church's unconscionable abuses. Circa 2000, it came to a reporter's attention that Father Geoghan had molested several children. The case was reported and a settlement was reached. The original story was never followed up on and that particular Globe story was forgotten.

Enter Marty Baron (Liev Shrieber) a new head reporter of The Boston Globe who comes across clippings and decides there is more here than at first thought. Baron urges the Spotlight team to pursue the story, a kind of real life "Avengers" of journalism, known for their obsessive pursuit of facts, their refusal to be persuaded, and a commitment to follow each story to its bitter end.

By contacting an intense and suffering abuse victim Phil Saviano (Neal Huff) along with consulting directories, the team realizes that thirteen priests have indeed abused scores of young children. The number increases.

This is a gritty and tense story with lots of Boston local color echoing David O. Russell's  "The Fighter." There are smoky barrooms, grimy corner tables, wilted slate gray houses and brown mustard kitchens. The film that this biting investigation most recalls, however, is "All the President's Men" in its smarmy, push-me-pull-you apprehensions and revelations, where those in power give a little only to take it back. Many white faces go gray and ashy.

Billy Crudup plays Eric MacLeish, a lawyer for the victims. As portrayed on film as having all of the glib and snappy answers,  his character is not sympathetic and easy to dislike. The actor Len Cariou is a highlight as Cardinal Law, who is as duplicitous as he is smooth with congeniality.  Richard Jenkins almost steals the show as a mysterious voice on the phone known as Sipe with aspects of Watergate's "Deep Throat." Michael Keaton plays team leader Walter Robinson. He is pale, compressed and hyper, arching his Gotham City eyebrows to great effect. Mark Ruffalo is here too as Mike Rezendez, the bohemian of the group. He shuffles about with insistence, driven to reveal any unturned Roman collar.

Though there are many cluttered desks, dim lighting, rolling presses and hectic faces reminiscent of many other newspaper-themed films, the compelling twists are sustained throughout. This attention gives a nostalgia to the tangible and now primitive simplicity of a story published on actual newsprint. A sable romance.

Perhaps the most telling aspect of "Spotlight" is the fact that Mark Ruffalo (known as The Hulk in Marvel films) plays the only character who loses his temper to the point of neck clenching.

This is no accident. Though he doesn't turn green like his former incarnation, Ruffalo's very appearance in this film is an affirmation: when faced with an earthly evil, journalists, not emerald-enraged scientists, have the true power to avenge, and affect change.

Write Ian at

No comments: