It wasn't that long ago when  newspapers were people's main source for information, and they focused on news rather than entertainment or ratings.  Spotlight is a drama (disturbingly based on a true story) that shows that period in journalism -- and one of America's biggest scandals.

In early 2000, the Boston Globe newspaper is facing declining subscribers, increased pressure from the Internet, and a new owner: Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber), who's seen as an outsider because he's coming from Miami and has never lived in Boston -- plus he's Jewish in a largely Roman Catholic town.

The newspaper's "spotlight" team -- reporters and editors who focus solely and covertly on one story to uncover everything they can -- is made up of Mike Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), "Robby" Robertson (Michael Keaton), Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams), and Matt Carol (Brian D'arcy James).  They had been working on crime rates in Boston, when Marty gives them a new assignment: look into the story of a priest convicted of molesting children.
 This assignment quickly balloons, as the reporters find evidence of priests being transferred around rather than removed or arrested, the possibility that Cardinal Law (Len Cariou) knew and covered up the crimes, and that the number of priests who molested children grows from four to thirteen to dozens.  Victims of abuse share their stories, and attorney Mitchell Garabedian (Stanley Tucci) represents victims while aware of the uphill battle he faces.  There's also immense pressure to sweep the scandal under the rug, as politicians, priests, and the religious public try to shift attention and evidence away from the scandal.  But the reporters keep digging...
Spotlight is a very effective movie, in the style of All the President's Men.  Instead of explosions and chases, we see reporters chasing down leads and persuading people to talk about what they'd rather keep hidden or to themselves.  The cast is excellent, the story goes at a smooth and direct pace, and the movie makes you believe in the power and dedication of the press.

The scariest part of the movie comes at the end, when we see how widespread the Roman Catholic church's pedophilia scandal was.  Spotlight shows how some dedicated people worked and fought to reveal the scandal -- and it makes for a powerful movie.

Overall grade: A-
Reviewed by James Lynch

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