‘Spotlight’ – Sharp and focused (IANS Rating: ****)

Film: “Spotlight”; Director: Tom McCarthy; Cast: Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Live Schreiber, John Slattery, Brian d’Arcy James, Stanley Tucci, Billy Crudup, Paul Guilfoyle, James Sheridan and Len Cariou; Rating: ****

Based on actual events that occurred in Boston, USA, “Spotlight” is an intense film that deals with investigative journalism. It is the 2003 Pulitzer Prize winning team’s fight against the system that stirred a hornet’s nest in the locality and the Roman Catholic Church.

The film gets its name from the section of The Boston Globe which specifically deals with exploratory stories. This section is handled by a four-member team headed by editor Walter Robinson, also known as Robby, reporters Michael Rezendes, Matt Carroll and Sacha Pfeiffer.

With the appointment of the new editor Marty Baron in July 2001, the Spotlight team is assigned to investigate allegations against a defrocked priest John Geoghan, who was accused of sexually abusing children in his parish in 1976.

It is during this investigation that the team realises that, torn between faith and knowledge of the crime, the issue is not a one-off case, but a plague that involves about 80 priests. Moreover what was more intriguing is that the people at the helm in the Archdiocese of Boston were aware of the malaise and were systematically brushing the cases under the carpet.

How the reporters make it their mission to provide proof of the cover-up of the sexual abuse within the Roman Catholic Church forms the base of the tale.

This is not only a powerful story that engages the film. With simplicity and uprightness, director McCarthy’s balanced script where he is able to portray the struggle between the two powers — the Church and the media — along with crisp dialogues and note-perfect ensemble cast qualifies this film as intelligent cinema.

The narrative is smooth and the graph rises as time goes by, as per the importance of the subject.

The performance of each member of the cast is pitch perfect. Heading the list is Micheal Keaton as Walter Robinson and Mark Ruffalo as Michael Rezendes. While Keaton embodies the head of the department, it is Ruffalo with his slouch and bouts of hunger, who is always engrossed in work, exemplifies a passionately hardworking journalist. He shines brilliantly in the confrontational scene opposite Keaton.

On the other hand, Rachel McAdams, who is nominated at the Oscars 2016 for Best Actress in a Supporting Role, is natural as Sacha Pfeiffer. Her personality as a hardcore journalist surfaces when she tells a survivor: “We care and we will tell the story and tell it right.”

Unfortunately her role offers nothing specifically significant.

With a restrained performance, Liev Schreiber shines as the editor Marty Baron.

Brian D’Arcy James as Matt Carroll, Len Cariou as Cardinal Law, Stanley Tucci as the psychotherapist Mitchell Garabedian and the rest of the cast which includes the victims have their shining moments too.

Cinematographer Masanobu Takayanagi’s lens capture Stephen H. Carter’s production designs to perfection. His visuals accompanied by Howard Shore’s low-keyed score are layered competently by editor Tom McArdle.

In the end, while the journey of the unravelling is compelling as it overturns a can of worms, the disturbing and enduring pain of the victims which is not exploited in the narration, throws up some baffling statistics.

Overall, “Spotlight” is a film worth a watch.

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