Directed by Tom McCarthy (2015)
Find me a newsroom drama that isn't at least somewhat overwrought and overdone, and I'll find you a movie no one's ever seen before. It's simply the nature of the beast. The dramatic machinations of "breaking a big story" can only go so far on film, and unless the reporters are under some sort of imminent physical danger (say, perhaps, they're reporting in Russia or Iran), drama must be manufactured by having people fling themselves wildly into traffic in a frantic dash back to the office to type their world-changing story once they're received a good scoop.
This, I'm afraid, is what makes "SPOTLIGHT" a pretty flawed film about a pretty great piece of journalism. At the turn of our last century, The Boston Globe took on a series of heretofore ignored sets of data that showed the city's Catholic church hierarchy has systemically buried and paid off dozens upon dozens of child sexual abuse allegations, and that the corruption and disease went all the way up to Cardinal Bernard Law and likely higher. Oh - and yes, it's unfortunately very true. This was one of the great landmark investigative journalism stories in a wave of Catholic church exposes that took the lid off many horrific cases involving the church and its clergy, dating back to the 1950s and 60s and likely well before.
Director Tom McCarthy wrings as much drama out of it as he can, but he's really ill-served by an over-acting Mark Ruffalo, who is the hothead reporter so willing to slam doors and leap into busy intersections when he's got a sizzling tip. Michael Keaton and Rachel McAdams are much better, and they help keep the tension building as the "spotlight" team at the Globe continues to unweave and untangle a series of lies, obfuscations and out-and-out bribes made by the church and its legal enablers. Much is made of Boston's clannish historical loyalties that makes the city the throwback that it is, and McCarthy very much kept me interested in the inevitable outcome all the way through.
Exiting the theater, after titles at the film's end jolted everyone with true facts and details about the Catholic church's sickening perfidy, you couldn't find an attendee shuffling out without a disgusted scowl on his or her face. That's the true power of this mediocre film, going well beyond its numerous cliches and its dramatic license taken. Ultimately it's a story that needs to be told, and retold, over and over again, if mankind ever wants to truly come to grips with one its own most monolithic, soul-crushing creations.