Dir. Tom McCarthy
Starring: Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, John Slattery, Stanley Tucci, Brian d'Arcy James, Liev Schreiber, Billy Crudup, Len Cariou
Review By Greg Klymkiw
Organized religion has always had about as much to do with genuine faith in God as the Corleones' Genco Oil Co. had to do with selling olives. In both cases, neither parties are what they seem on the surface. The Catholic Church is probably more insidiously evil than the Mafia.
Built on secrecy, shame and corruption of the highest order, the Church has always been the perfect hiding place for sadists, psychopaths and pedophiles. Catholicism is so powerful that it's been almost impossible to break through their fortresses of protection. Too occasionally, through dogged determination, commitment and bravery on the part of its victims and valiant supporters, the Church has occasionally been exposed.
|Where there is a Catholic Church…|
there are Child Rapists!
The movie Spotlight takes deadly aim upon Catholic corruption and is so terrific, the picture easily takes its place with a handful of classic films featuring journalists as crusading detectives under the yoke of dark forces. Director Tom Mcarthy expertly lays out the proceedings in such a clear, precise fashion that his picture knocks us on our asses as mightily as 70s stalwarts All The President's Men and The Parallax View managed to do.
Telling the true story of a team of Boston Globe investigative reporters, the film powerfully and breathlessly details the eventual discovery and exposure of not one, not two, nor even a handful of Catholic Church pedophiles, but hundreds of them. In fact, this was one of the most significant takedowns of Catholic proclivities towards sexual abuse in recent decades.
McCarthy serves up one of the most astonishing casts in recent American cinema to lead us into the labyrinthine evil that plagued Boston as horrifically as Whitey Bulger. We follow Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber), a newly appointed Globe editor who pushes the long-respected "Spotlight" team to drop everything and pursue the story behind the story and yet, behind the story, on Catholic pedophiles.
Robby Robinson (Michael Keaton), the team leader, initially complies under duress, but as he comes to know and respect his new boss and discover the twisted truth, he drives his crack reporters to dig deeper than they've ever dug before. The reporters are all Catholics, albeit of the lapsed variety, but even their "lapses" descend into pits of outright indignation as they realize how many children have been sexually abused by priests how both the Catholic Church and the legal system have buried the truth.
|Mark Ruffalo - Lapsed Catholic Reporter|
Michael Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo) takes on Mitchell Garabedian (Stanley Tucci), a lawyer representing ninety victims. The attorney wants to help, but can only do so surreptitiously. He also has knowledge of documents that can only be secured legally by suing the Catrholic Church. Matt Carroll (Brian D’Arcy James) discovers pedophile priests who are merely reassigned to new parishes to rape anew (with the full knowledge and blessing of the Archdiocese of Boston), while Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams) discovers even more victims than the aforementioned ninety - hundreds more. She also goes after slime bucket lawyer Eric MacLeish (Billy Crudup) whose collusion only protects the Catholic pederasts further.
Collusion, of course, is the key, and as the film progresses it seems the entire city of Boston is protecting this Confederacy of Holy Child Rapists: the rich and famous, the captains of finance/industry, the Crown, the cops and even the parents of victims (one victim describes his mother putting out cookies for his rapist). Oh, and just so the Globe doesn't come off completely lily-white in all this, McCarthy and co-writer Josh Singer make sure to nail the local media also - especially The Globe and its early collusion with the Church.
McCarthy's mise-en-scene is intelligently, tastefully un-fettered by overwrought visual excess. He spins the yarn by allowing the terrific script and first-rate cast do their business within well-blocked scenes that play-out in longer takes with punch-ins occurring only when they're necessary to genuinely tell the story and move the picture ever-forward. This is not to suggest McCarthy's work is by-the-numbers - instead he subtly creates three primary looks which assist in terms of tone - garish, fluorescent lights in office settings, dark interiors punctuated with glowing warmth when in the presence of the denizens of the Church and finally, a kind of drab, grey quality to most of the daytime exteriors as the reporters go about their business.
|Stanley Tucci - a lawyer holds the truth|
The entire film grips you by the throat and its impossible to shake free of its grasp - ever-maddening, ever-frustrating, ever-creepy and at times, even downright scary. In addition to the corruption and collusion, the film doesn't avoid exposing the Catholic Church's virulent anti-semitism (especially when blame is placed on the Jewish editor of the Globe). There's also an unbelievably creepy performance from legendary Canadian actor Len Cariou as Cardinal Bernard Law, Boston's prime pervert priest apologist/protector.
The Catholic Church has never looked quite so evil as it does here, and for good reason. It's the sheer paper-pushing bureaucracy at all levels that is used to hide these rapists and then put them back into situations where they can rape again. The movie is so dazzlingly structured that in its final minutes we're not only on the edge of our seats, but are eventually dealt a mighty cathartic blow.
To expose the Church is one piece of the delicate process of healing for its victims - all of whom were children when they were repeatedly raped by supposed men of God, who in turn were protected by the Church itself. The Church should have been protecting the children, not the rapists of the Cloth. In a sense, it would be wonderful if the children had the final word on this. They're the future, not the Catholic Church. As Spotlight stirringly demonstrates, it's the Catholic Church and its legacy of shame that needs to be exposed, but also, placed in a coffin.
THE FILM CORNER RATING: ***** 5-Stars
Spotlight is a TIFF Special Presentation at TIFF 2015 via Open Road Films