Spotlight written and directed by Tom McCarthy (Participant Media, First Look Media, Anonymous Content, R, 128 min)

Starring Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slatterly, Brian d’Arcy James, and Stanley Tucci.

In Defense of Procedure

When one hears the term “procedural,” the tendency is to associate it with the detective genre. The murders begin; the police follow a rigorous process to uncover clues about the killer.

A procedural implies a process or procedure enacted toward a specific end. Procedures exist in various elements of our lives. The doctor operates a procedure on a patient. A parent follows a procedure before a child’s bedtime (e.g., pajamas, brush teeth, story time, eyes closed). A college student better follow a procedure if they want to get a good grade on a paper (e.g., thesis, body content supporting the thesis in a deductive manner, objections to main argument, counter-arguments to the main argument, conclusion). To underline the point, procedures represent best practices required to achieve success in any given task.

In the compelling, award winning film, Spotlight, a team of investigative journalists work leads to uncover a massive abuse scandal in the Catholic Church.

Set in 2001 and based on a true story, the Boston Globe encounters new ownership and a new editor, Marty Baron (Liev Scheiber). Tasked with advancing readership in the early stages of the decline in news, newly appointed editor, Marty orders Spotlight editor Walter “Robby” Robinson (Michael Keaton) and his team of journalists to dig deeper on the accusations around a single priest.

As the film unfolds, Robby and his team of journalists, including Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams) and Mike Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo) dives into the stories and community hearsay to uncover the truth around a massive cover up.

In Advance of an Avalanche

With meticulous detail and plotting often reserved for police procedurals, the team discovers small lead after small lead, linking the evidence to expand the story from 1 priest to 13 priests to 40 priests to over 70 priests.

Well written and well-acted, the film portrays the massive-but-mundane observations of this investigation with dramatic gusto. Take for example the moment when the team discovers the Catholic Church’s tendency to list abusive priests as “taking sick leave.” This revelation pushes the team to the Boston Globe basement to dust off archdiocese archives. That taxonomy listed by the church itself exposes 60+ priests yet to be accused.

A reserved film focused on the details of investigative reporting, Spotlight trades action for impact and is well worth your time.

Verdict: 4.5 out of 5

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