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The Student Voice reviews ‘Spotlight’


October 3, 2018

In honor of student journalism’s return to campus, I decided to review one of the best tributes to the trade in recent memory. 2015’s “Spotlight” tells the story of the Pulitzer-winning Boston Globe team who uncovered longstanding patterns of sexual abusive behavior in the Catholic Church. The movie not only tactfully handles on difficult subjects, but also provides one of the most realistic depictions of journalists’ day to day work.

Spotlight, released in 2015, stars Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton and Rachel McAdams.
Spotlight, released in 2015, stars Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton and Rachel McAdams.

The titular Spotlight team is an investigative branch of the Boston globe that specializes in social injustice centered journalism. Taking place from 2001 to 2002, the movie follows the team’s year-long investigation from the beginning, at a time when the idea of investigating the Catholic Church seemed like a far-fetched story idea.

The investigation starts when Marty Baron played by Liev Schreiber, steps into the role of editor at the Globe. New to the Boston area, Baron brings with him a cutting-edge perspective to the team. Early on the movie highlights one of the most important aspects of journalism: viewing a situation through a fresh set of eyes.

While Baron oversees the investigation, it’s the team of field reporters who hunt for information any way they can. From scouring through paper records in dusty government building basements, to jumping through hoops to access protected documents, the team’s unflinching perseverance is what makes their success possible.

Some of the best scenes, however, take place when the Spotlight team’s reporters are holding interviews with survivors regarding extremely sensitive subjects. Consisting of A-list actors including Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Brian d’Arcy James, and Michael Keaton, the reporters carry the movie through its emotional scenes. If it weren’t for the outstanding performances from these experienced actors, the movie would not have been nearly as impactful.

Every one of these riveting interview scenes demonstrates excellent journalism skills. The Spotlight reporters build rapport with the survivors and ask questions with the proper amount of sensitivity while still directly addressing the abuse that they had to live through. Rachel McAdams’ character even states this directly in one such scene, highlighting the importance that concrete language plays. After all, their goal is to inspire social change.

Nothing in the movie screams suspense. The score mostly consists of minimal piano medleys, and the editing never tricks the viewer into sitting on the edge of their seats. However, a sense of urgency builds throughout. It truly feels like watching a group of real people doing all they can to bring a longstanding issue to light.

While the reporters want to publish the story as soon as possible, likely each with their own reasons, Baron forces them to broaden their approach – the team is looking for an all-encompassing perspective.

“Spotlight” demands multiple viewings. it’s easy to get caught up in the individual details when watching the movie. Just like good journalists, viewers benefit from being able to see the big picture early on. Whether you’re a fellow journalism fanatic or just in the mood for a well-directed, thought provoking movie, “Spotlight” is a must watch.

Bennett Ryynanen is a student at UW-River Falls.