Sunday, February 14, 2016

Spotlight: Suffering the Silence

Spotlight is an old-fashioned movie about an old-fashioned craft - investigative journalism. Director and co-writer Tom McCarthy has stuck to the proven formula for this kind of story telling so effectively mastered in All The President's Men forty years ago. It is based on actual events and keeps to a straightforward narrative.

The Boston Globe's 2001 Spotlight team is bigger and has a woman on board (Sacha Pfeiffer well played by Rachel McAdams). A quick scan of the cast shows how nearly all aspects of this shameful epidemic were male-dominated. Clergy and laity, police, lawyers and judges, and journalists: all played their part in the systemwide sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests and the collusion or silence of those who should have made it their business to expose it.

The two Spotlight male leads, Mark Ruffalo as Mike Rezendes and Michael Keaton as Wally 'Robby' Robinson, give very creditable performances. Liev Schreiber as the new Jewish outsider newspaper editor Marty Baron is hardly recognisable as his character from Wolverine. The beard helps.

This isn't a film about paedophile priests or its coverup by the highest levels of the Catholic church. Nor is it about "a bunch of lawyers turning child abuse into a cottage industry". It is a story about journalism, its power and importance. The sort of journalism that is much less common now under the current financial and other pressures on newspapers and other old media.

IMDb has tagged the film as Biography, Drama, History and Thriller. It is primarily a crime investigation. As the credits indicate, it has been a global crime wave. Its 'survivors' suffered a long time in the silence that denied them justice.