Spotlight shines with intelligent direction

Michele Mathis and Michele Mathis

Comparable to the four-time Oscar winning film “All The President’s Men,” “Spotlight” hinges on the slow and steady march to the truth and the overcoming narrative of good versus evil.

Tom McCarthy’s 2015 film “Spotlight” opens the door for audiences to the Boston Globe’s investigative team that uncovered the sexual abuse and pedophilia in the Catholic Church in 2002.

The action begins in 2001 with the arrival of a new editor, Marty Baron (Liev Schrieber), from the Miami Herald. At the first editor’s meeting, Baron shows a clipping of a local priest charged with sexual assault and pushes editor Walter Robinson (Michael Keaton) to take his investigative team to discover if it was an isolated incident.

Robinson’s team consists of three scraggly journalists: Matty Carroll (Brian d’Arcy James), a quiet but resourceful family man; Mike Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), determined and pushy, the kind of journalist everybody is warned about; and Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams), the quiet and intelligent type. The movie focuses on the gritty and the flaws, rather than the glitz and the drama of being a journalist. “Spotlight” gains credit for making a simple movement a dramatic and poignant moment.

Much like “All The President’s Men,” you see the journalists with long nights in a reading room and close-ups on the large, dusty textbooks they had to rent out of the library. Even without a strong musical score, the viewer’s attention is kept only in the strong emotional connection they develop with Robinson, Carroll, Rezendes and Pfeiffer.

The movie is made through the director’s perspective. McCarthy had a choice to turn a horrific piece of our world history into a feel-good story, but managed to create a piece of raw story-telling and show the audience how it affects us all. The question asked by Robinson is, “Why didn’t I do more?” Robinson and the journalist team act as our moral surrogates in this question, battling against the dilemma of hindsight and staying silent.

Michael Keaton shines in this movie, contestable with his performance in “Birdman,” showing us the burden it places on a person to stubbornly fight with what is right with the underlying feeling of stress from guilt and regret. Keaton pulls at us because he is us.

The only defect of “Spotlight” is lack of character development between the journalists. Much like many crime shows, such as “Numb3rs” or “Law & Order,” we catch glimpses of their personal lives only at work. Carroll discovers he lives close to a priest predator, Pfeiffer worries over how her strict Catholic family will take the breaking of the information and Rezendes struggles with a failing marriage. It leaves much up to the viewer’s imagination and loses an additional emotional impact.

However, McCarthy ties the loss in with the original theme of guilt by using several blocks of screen time to release the city names that were investigated after the original 2002 investigation broke, leaving the viewers with the same question in mind, “Why didn’t I do more?”