This year’s Oscar winner for Best Picture, Spotlight manages a fairly low-key vibe while dealing with a very difficult subject. Exceptional writing and an outstanding ensemble cast recount the true story about a group of newspaper journalists who exposed a massive child molestation scandal within the Boston Archdiocese that sent shock waves throughout the Catholic Church and its members.
As the film begins, it’s 2001, and The Boston Globe is welcoming new Editor-in-Chief, Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber) Early on, Baron meets with Walter “Robby” Robinson (Michael Keaton), the editor of the Spotlight team, a small group of journalists writing investigative articles that take months to research and publish. In short order, Baron urges the team to look into John Geoghan a local Catholic priest who was accused of sexually abusing children in his parish. Robby and his team—Michael Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams) and Matt Carroll (Brian d’Arcy James), begin to discreetly shake some trees, determined to find out if there’s more to the story. As the team begins to dig deeper into the allegations, they expose a decades-long cover-up that’s larger and more far-reaching than any of them could have ever imagined.
Spotlight doesn’t have one weak performance in the bunch. Everyone involved captures the personality of their character well, as the desire to get to the bottom of the story largely takes over their lives. There’s also an extra edge to things because all of the reporters are aware that the story should have been exposed decades before. Mark Ruffalo’s Michael Rezendes is pleasant enough, but he also gives him a fixated edge, as he works furiously to gather the facts before another newspaper gets them first. Rachel McAdams’ Sacha Pfeiffer stays focused even as door after door is slammed in her face, and is sympathetic when victims share their stories. Brian d’Arcy James is the quiet, workmanlike member of the group for whom the story ends up being remarkably close to home. If one performance stands out, it’s Michael Keaton. It’s through Robby Robinson earlier, controversial involvement in the story that his reveals his conflict over a mistake he made years before. Understated, yet nuanced, the fact that Keaton didn’t receive an Oscar nomination for his work here is a real shame.
Director/co-writer (with Josh Singer) Tom McCarthy deserves kudos for delivering a solid script and allowing a wonderful ensemble cast (which includes supporting turns from such notables as John Slattery, Stanley Tucci and Billy Crudup) to deliver a powerful story, resisting the urge to make things unnecessarily dramatic in a bid to attract a Hollywood A-lister to the film, or more box office. As it stands, Spotlight shows just how effective investigative journalism can be.
Presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, Universal has provided a solid 1080p transfer. It accurately depicts the array of Canadian and the few Boston locations that were used. The film itself has a nice level of grain, appropriate to the material. Some of the color palette is darker, but whites and brighter colors look appropriate. There are no real image problems of note.
Spotlight has been given a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix. A dialogue heavy film, this is a fairly quiet mix. Center focused, dialogue is clean and clear. Atmospherics and music cues are heard in the surrounds. While the track is nothing special, it elicits no complaints.
English SDH, French, and Spanish subtitles are included.
The following extras are available:
- Uncovering the Truth: A Spotlight Team Roundtable (HD, 6:33) The actual employees of “The Boston Globe” featured in the film remember the story, intercut with clips from the film.
- Spotlight: A Look Inside (HD, 2:30) A very quick look at the story, intercut with clips from the film.
- The State of Journalism (HD, 3:14) Those involved in the film discuss the current state of investigative journalism. Included here are comments from Director/Co-Writer Tom McCarthy and actors Michael Keaton, Liev Schreiber, Mark Ruffalo, Brian d’Arcy James, and John Slattery.
- A DVD copy of the film.
- UV/iTunes digital copy.