The film opens on Valentine’s Day in 1976. A child is abused by a priest who is detained by the Boston police. A representative from the Catholic Church is called in with a bundle of cash to give to the family. The film fast forwards to 25 years later when a new editor, Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber), takes the reins of the Boston Herald newspaper. A veteran of “a Miami paper” and The New York Times, Baron assigns the Spotlight team to investigate the subject of pedophilia in the Boston community.
“Spotlight” is the code name of the investigative team of veteran journalists from The Boston Herald. Walter “Robby” Robertson (Michael Keaton) is the editor of the Spotlight team who confronts some apathy from his past. Mike Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo) and Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams) are investigative journalists who are lapsed Roman Catholics. As the team interviews victims of abuse, they are frustrated by a bureaucratic mentality that blocks their pursuit of evidence.
Given that Ben Bradlee Jr. (John Slattery) is involved, Spotlight feels like a generational sequel to All the President’s Men, given Ben Bradlee Sr.’s involvement with that White House scandal. The methods of journalistic investigation are similar. Both films reveal what successful journalistic investigations used to be.
Spotlight has a conscience. As the team (and the audience) get closer to the truth, each character is given a moment of confession. This film is full of dialogue, but the pace does not drag and the story is strong. Spotlight is a must-see.