The best film about journalism in at least a decade.
Tom Glasson
Published on January 29, 2016


Spotlight is a 'deep breath' movie. The kind that holds you in your seat long after the final frame and leaves you staring at the credits lost in deep, uncomfortable thoughts. You find yourself at once furious and disconsolate, avoiding others’ gaze when possible, and offering mutual half smiles when not. Others simply cry.

This is a film about child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church, told through the eyes of the Boston Globe journalists who uncovered and exposed it in 2002. The name, Spotlight, refers to the Globe's long-term investigative unit, a four person team whose secretive research and day-to-day operations existed largely outside the newspaper’s conventional structure – a sort of journalistic special forces if you will.

Directed by Tom McCarthy (Win Win), Spotlight is, in almost every respect, a masterclass in restraint. From the performances, to the writing, to the direction and, most importantly, to the actions taken by the reporters themselves, it is the definitive anti-clickbait film; an ardent dedication to both an age and institution when the priority of media outlets was not 'first' but 'right'. For the Spotlight team, the mere selection of a story might take months and its final form not see the light of day for more than a year. If something couldn’t be substantiated, the story would be held for a few more months until it could. To imagine that level of patience (and budgetary freedom) in the modern era of twenty-four hour news is all but inconceivable.

Of the film's six Academy Award nominations, two are for best supporting performances by Rachel McAdams and Mark Ruffalo, though more could (and perhaps should) have easily been spread across the entire cast. Michael Keaton, Liev Schreiber, Billy Crudup, John Slattery, Brian d’Arcy James and Stanley Tucci all contribute incredibly passionate and complex portrayals of the journalists and lawyers responsible for either exposing or protecting the church’s extraordinarily sordid past and practices. Indeed, there are no weak links in this confident, consummate picture, whose deft touch and understated approach neatly reflect the disciplined reserve of its characters.

Powerful, absorbing and deeply moving, Spotlight is almost certainly the best film about journalism, and, specifically, print media, of at least the past decade. Probably more.


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