"THE INTERNET is killing investigative journalism": It's a bitter theory that's been hissed in newsrooms throughout the country for quite some time. Print products rely on advertising and subscriptions to survive, but internet readers can get their news quick and for free—which means journalists whose work requires months of research are often the first to be laid off. The slow death of investigative journalism is one of the underlying themes of Spotlight, which depicts how reporters at the Boston Globe exposed scores of pedophile priests in 2003, thereby significantly changing the Catholic Church worldwide.
Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, and Brian d'Arcy James play the Globe's "spotlight" team of investigative journalists who work on long-term stories while feeling corporate pressure to slow the paper's shrinking subscription base. But when tasked by their new editor (Liev Schreiber) to look into child molestation charges leveled at Boston's beloved Catholic Archdiocese, the team discovers the death of print media is the least of their worries.
Translating a highly detailed true story to film could sound like a staged reading of a Wikipedia page, or worse, trivialize the victims' experiences—and Spotlight walks dangerously close to this precipice. However, other than a few hammy moments, this film somehow manages to pull it off. The acting, particularly by those playing the victims, is spot-on, and director Tom McCarthy does a nice job of ratcheting up tension while communicating a lot of expository detail.
Spotlight is admirable in many ways, but most importantly, it refuses to let anyone off the hook—and that includes the abusers, church, parishioners, city bureaucrats, and even the Globe, which ignored the story for years. Regardless, at its core, Spotlight is a celebration of investigative journalists—because no matter what their future may hold, they're looking out for you when no one else will.