Netting six nominations and widely considered a frontrunner in the Best Picture race, Sportlight chronicles the work of the Boston Globe investigative unit that in 2001 uncovered a massive, decades-spanning sex abuse scandal buried by the Catholic Church. Needless to say, there are grave set-backs and near-insurmountable obstacles to be overcome, before the end credits inform you what a monumental feat of civil service it has been. The thing is, of course predatory priests are bad and the powers that be who protected them evil. That they exist and have ruined countless lives is a tragic, commonly known fact. Making a movie based on such black-and-white characters, powered by a narrative of moral superiority, is simply not very original or even interesting. Unlike last year’s Berlinale-winner El Club, which approaches a similar subject matter but explores all its obscure, unsettling niches, McCarthy deals in absolutes. Indignant journalists are the tireless good guys who launch into smartly worded tirades against the obvious baddies when they’re not busy tracking them down. The result feels like a mixture of finger-pointing and reflexive back-patting that appeals to a most primitive sense of right and wrong but has nothing truly insightful to say. Exhaustively researched and featuring an able ensemble cast, Spotlight is clearly made with the best of intentions, even if that has never been enough for a film to provoke, affect or inspire.
Spotlight | Directed by Tom McCarthy (USA 2015) with Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton and Rachel McAdams. Starts February 25