In my day job, I'm a reporter, and I've always enjoyed seeing the process of reporting play out on the big screen. All The President's Men, the seminal book and film of the same name that took down President Nixon, is a regular re-read and re-watch in my house.
That's why Spotlight—the new film that depicts the way the Boston Globe's special Spotlight investigative reporting unit broke wide open the story of how priests in the Catholic church were sexually abusing hundreds of children—was such a thrill for me. It is right in my wheel house in terms of the things it depicts.
Watching a crack team of reporters slowly dig into a case and come out on the other side with the truth? For me, that sounds like a good time. But I understand that a large percentage of people reading this won't feel the same way. Reporting, often a foreign subject to those who don't actually practice it for a living, can be boring to watch.
In Spotlight, it is much the same. There are no action sequences. Most of the movie's most thrilling scenes play out as someone is digging through old files or making phone calls. There are no heavy action sequences, and much of the film's tension comes from wondering just how these four reporters and their boss are going to get the information they actually need to publish a big story and beat their opponents at the newspaper across town.
But even though it's not your typical thriller, Spotlight still offers up plenty of nervous moments. You know where the story is going, because it's factual; we know how it all played out in the end. But the actors here—and Mark Ruffalo in particular—do such a great job of drawing you into a glimpse of these people doing their jobs that you can't help but be left breathless several times.
Michael Keaton, fresh off his career-best performance in last year's Birdman, is effective here playing a character much the opposite. His Water Robinson is quiet, showing a leadership style that relies on making sure every brick of a story is in place before the public gets their chance to see it. And Liev Schreiber as former Globe editor in chief Marty Baron—now the executive editor of the Washington Post—is even more subdued than Keaton, a far cry from his characater on Ray Donovan and other movies Schreiber has done in recent years.
Spotlight probably is not a movie for everyone. But it's well-made, and if you're into the idea of finding out how stories are actually made and how old-fashioned journalism was done—before social media and hashtags and click-bait headlines came alone—Spotlight is a must-see film, and it is a likely Oscar contender.
Rating: 8 out of 10