Spotlight (5 stars)


Tom McCarthy’s impeccably executed newsroom drama boasts an all-star ensemble

Based on a true story, Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight is a remarkable film. As methodical and measured as the journalists at its centre, this is the tale of how the Boston Globe’s Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation led to the unearthing of sexual abuse and cover-ups within the Catholic church. Without wishing to over-hype it, it’s up there with that classic study of Nixon-era investigative journalism, All the President’s Men.

The crimes at the heart of the story proved even more powerful than presidential wrongdoing – given that the paper’s revelations led to a global domino effect, as thousands of abuse victims came forward. McCarthy, wisely, keeps his film focused on events in Boston; beginning in July 2001, when the Globe’s investigative team ‘Spotlight’ is asked by new editor Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber) to look into allegations that a priest, Father John Geoghan, has molested more than 80 young boys.

Led by Walter ‘Robby’ Robinson (Michael Keaton), the reporters – played by Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo and Brian d’Arcy James – gradually jigsaw-puzzle the story together, fastidiously combing through records, files and clippings. But it’s hardly a straightforward path. The events of 9/11 mean the team is forced to put their findings to one side; worse still, the paper had previously run stories on abuse without following events up. No-one – bar the victims – is entirely blameless in this case.

McCarthy (The Station Agent, The Visitor) has assembled a fine cast – with small roles played by such luminous talents as Mad Men’s John Slattery and Billy Crudup, while Stanley Tucci is particularly effective as the mildly eccentric lawyer who represented 86 plaintiffs in the Geoghan case. Even better, the film never over-dramatises. A tribute to the almost-lost art of investigative reporting and the power of print media, Spotlight is as attention-grabbing as headline news.

General release from Fri 29 Jan.


  • 5 stars
  • 2015
  • US
  • 2h 8min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Tom McCarthy
  • Cast: Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton
  • UK release: 29 January 2016

McCarthy's tale of how the Boston Globe's investigation team unearthed cases of sexual abuse and cover-ups within the Catholic church is up there with All the President's Men, with a fine cast (Keaton, McAdams, Ruffalo, Tucci) serving a nuanced, complex script: no one, except the victims, is entirely blameless. Remarkable.