So, this wasn’t a film I was expecting. Based on true story films always come out around this time of year, they all want that Oscar nom, but they’re normally not that interesting to me. There are reasons for this, not the least of which being that true story films tend to depress me and I get enough of that from anime without it being based on real events, but this one actually struck a chord with me. This is probably due to the fact that it happened near me and I happen to add a bit more interest to things that happen near me. Yep, I’m from Massachusetts.
Go Red Sox!
Okay, quick background: I’ve only really heard of the two main leads, Ruffalo and Keaton, and mostly as their roles in geek pop culture (Hulk and Batman), but they’ve been in other movies that I’ve enjoyed. I know Rachel McAdams from the two Downey Jr. Sherlock Holmes films and nothing else. Everyone else, I got nothing. On the actual subject matter, I’ve heard the joke about Catholics and little boys (who hasn’t?), but I never knew where it came from, much less that it came from somewhere close to home. Remember, this all happened when I was in the 2nd – 3rd grade and I didn’t even know about 9/11 until a year later. (I didn’t really pay attention to what happened around me back then. …Yeah, I was an idiot.) Also, I don’t know much about journalism other than the one class I took in high school and I mostly wrote movie reviews. (Hey, what do you know?)
On to the film:
It’s mid 2001, 9/11 hasn’t happened yet, the Boston Globe has gotten a new editor and their investigation team Spotlight lead by Walter ‘Robbie’ Robinson, played by Michael Keaton, is looking for a new story. Their new editor Marty Baron, played by Liev Schreiber, suggests a then recent case about a priest accused of molesting children. While digging deeper, the team, including Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, and Brian d’Arcy James as writers Rezendes, Pfeiffer, and Carroll respectively with John Slattery acting as supervisor Ben Bradlee Jr., soon learns that what’s going on is far bigger than any of them could have imagined.
Alright, another reason true story films make me uncomfortable is because anything you say about the film can also be taken as being said about the real life events the film is based on and with an event like this that involved generations of molested and traumatised kids by priests, that’s not a spoiler it’s the basis for the whole movie, it’s pretty unsettling. So, for the record, what I say here and any opinions I have is about the film. Okay? Okay.
All that being said, I loved this movie. I went into this mainly because my mother really wanted to see it and it had two of my favourite superhero actors as the leads. Yes, I spent most of the movie watching Ruffalo, and yes he made a spectacular performance as did everyone else, but the star of the show was Keaton’s Robbie. The struggle this guy has to go through with this story that ends up becoming something pretty personal. Actually, it ended up pretty personal for all four members of the team, at least two of whom had families. All of them are likeable, each have their own stakes in the story. The victims’ stories are heartbreaking and you can really tell the trauma and heartbreak they’ve gone through and how they’ve worked to move past them. And remember these are the ones that survive to adulthood. Even some of the supporting characters, even those that seem skeezy or unlikeable, end up being some shade of likeable and even sympathetic. The only ones who don’t are those directly connected to the church, but then that’s to be expected.
The film is well paced, all the scenes flow well together and all the characters end up where they are at the appropriate time and in ways that make sense. There is some drama from the characters’ personal lives, but for the most part it stays focused on the story, the victims, the lawyers, the cover up, and the team’s reactions to it all. This isn’t a crime thriller, this is built up through small locally picked up sources of information. The facts were all there. It just needed someone to look for them and accept the truth.
This is probably one of the few films I’ve seen filmed in the actual place it’s set in, most of them being John Hughes films, but Boston looks beautiful. I know that’s not the focus, but it’s nice to look at admits all the talk of pedophials and molested children. But is it weird that I recognise more of Chicago in High Fidelity than I do Boston in this movie? …No, it’s not.
The best part of the film though? No one’s an idiot. No one on the team breaks a law or goes rogue to get the story. If they make a mistake, it’s not obvious and it’s because they’re not perfect. They’re human. This is a great script written by a great director with great actors telling a great story,
I cannot recommend this film enough. Go watch it. If this isn’t nominated for something at the Oscars, I’m gonna need a lot of video game hours to take out my aggression. Hell, I even might go see it again. This’ll probably be one of the few true stories that ends up on my shelf and I can’t wait. It deserves it.
(Photo via Open Road Films)