Spotlight is about the eponymous team of investigative reporters for The Boston Globe who crack open the widespread and systemic cover-up of child abuse within the Catholic church. Turned onto the case by a new editor they are all wary of, the team begins a systematic and comprehensive investigation into how and why accusations of child abuse by Catholic priests never seem to go very far in the criminal system.
What the team finds is a multi-layered and byzantine effort to silence and cover-up any public acknowledgment of wrongdoing. Their efforts toward getting at the truth are met with silence, rebukes, and thinly veiled threats. But, eventually, through their dogged pursuit of the truth and evidence to support it, the Spotlight team is able to uncover the lies and deceit to figure out who knew about the abuse and what was done to keep it all quiet.
And, when they decide to print the truth they have unearthed, it changes things. Victims get some vindication, the Catholic church is shaken to its very core, and the power of words, when communicating truth backed by critical thinking, are shown to inspire people to act. I don't know how accurate the movie portrays the sequence of events of the investigation, but I remember when the story broke. And, I remember it being the first time allegations of child sexual abuse within the Catholic church were presented as undeniable fact and not just the punchline of some joke. Spotlight shows how all that could have come about.
This is an ensemble film cast with incredibly good actors all led by Michael Keaton, who seems to have a new head-of-steam on his career and is better than he has ever been. The other actors create believable, quirky characters who are good at what they do and easily create the at-ease feeling of office co-workers. These characters, based on the real journalists who worked the story, are each able to contribute pieces to the puzzle and, in so doing, break open one of the biggest news stories so far this century.