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Directed by Thomas McCarthy. Produced by Blye Faust, Steve Golin, Nicole Rocklin, and Michael Sugar. Written by Thomas McCarthy and Josh Singer. Release date: November 6, 2015.

Earlier in 2015, a movie starring Adam Sandler called The Cobbler was released. In short: it wasn’t good. However, apart from Sandler trying (and failing at) a different type of movie, the most interesting thing about The Cobbler was that it was directed by Thomas McCarthy, whose previous three directorial outings were all incredible critical successes. The Cobbler comes across as an anomaly. But, luckily for McCarthy, he also has Spotlight out in 2015, which is so good that it will make all but the biggest grudge-holders among us forgive him for his earlier effort.

Spotlight, based on a true story – and genuinely feeling like it is – follows an investigative newspaper team from The Boston Globe who, at the request of their new editor (Liev Schreiber), begin to look into sex abuse allegations against members of the Catholic Church. What they discover will shock – and that’s even if you know the true story. Played any differently and Spotlight might feel like a cartoonish joke. But as told here, by McCarthy and co-writer Josh Singer, it’s gross, affecting, and, appropriately, damning.

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The Spotlight team consists of the following members: Robby Robinson (Michael Keaton), Michael Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams), and Matt Carroll (Brian d’Arcy James). Robby is the editor, but likes to think of himself as a player-coach. The majority of the film follows these four individuals as they attempt to uncover something that, as we learn, more people knew about than were saying. This is investigative journalism at its finest – The Globe won a Pulitzer Prize in 2003 for the story – both from the team and from the filmmakers.

It’s tempting when making a film about a subject matter like this to make its heroes perfect beings who can do no wrong. After all, the movie definitely has an agenda – to shed some light into a case that many people know about, but not in much depth – so it’s going to have its villains and its good guys. However, by painting them in that kind of light, a film very easily loses some of its credibility. Spotlight refuses to do that. It has its characters portrayed like very real people. Incredibly smart, persistent, and persuasive people, but people – flaws included – nonetheless.

A film about journalism that is powerful, shocking, affecting, and fittingly damning against the Catholic Church, Spotlight is one of the best films of 2015.

In fact, one of the subplots in the film revolves around the Globe being given much of the information needed years earlier, but buried it. For what reason? You’ll have to watch the film to find out. The point is that even those on the right moral side of the fence here aren’t perfect.

What we get with Spotlight is a compelling and informative movie about journalists who are really good at their job uncovering a scandal within the Church that is rooted far, far deeper than anyone could have thought or hoped. With every new piece of information we learn, it’s hard not to be both disgusted and astonished. I was literally shaking my head at some of the things Spotlight presented toward us. Many audience members were laughing at both the absurdity of the situation and because of how uncomfortable it made them feel.

If there was a “Best Ensemble Cast” award given out at the Oscars – less publicized awards shows actually do have such an award – Spotlight would be the frontrunner. It has several supporting performances, but none that truly feel like a lead. Michael Keaton and Mark Ruffalo both deliver Oscar-worthy performances. Rachel McAdams is solid in the only primary female role. Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, and Stanley Tucci both get solid moments to shine. The only one who really falls by the wayside is Brian d’Arcy James, as Spotlight’s fourth member, and that’s only because of the caliber of the other actors. He’s fine, but you’re not likely to notice him.

A film about journalism that is powerful, shocking, affecting, and fittingly damning against the Catholic Church, Spotlight is one of the best films of 2015, one of the best films ever made about journalism, and a tremendous viewing. It’s entertaining from start to finish – this is how to perfectly pace a movie – offers tremendous insight and revelations into a corrupt system that protects child molesters, and does it all while giving us smart and interesting protagonists, played perfectly by their actors, who are heroic but not infallible heroes. Spotlight is must-watch cinema.

Bottom Line: One of the best films of 2015, Spotlight is an incredible movie.

Recommendation: If it’s been released near you, go see Spotlight now.



If you want more of Matthew “Marter” Parkinson, you can follow him on the Twitter @Martertweet and check out his weekly movie podcast.

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