The School of Journalism hosted an advance screening and Q&A session for the new feature film Spotlight, which retells the story of the team of Boston Globe reporters who uncovered the controversial Catholic priest abuse scandal that shocked the nation in 2002. Journalism professor William Kirtz and students from his class attended the screening, and he shared the following review:
Yes, it’s as good as advertised. Spotlight is an absorbing look at how Boston Globe investigative reporters (including two Northeastern Journalism graduates) uncovered the Catholic Church abuse scandal.
Yes, journalism is a noble profession–as the project’s supervisor, Ben Bradlee Jr. remarked at the Loews Theater Boston preview for Northeastern students, faculty, and alumni.
But the film doesn’t portray this ink-stained crew as pure heroes. It depicts false starts and squabbles and gives some welcome credit to other papers’ stories that ran before the Globe’s massive 2002 series sparked scores of similar revelations across the country.
Director (and co-writer) Tom McCarthy’s intense procedural is more subdued than Alan Pakula’s newsroom classic All The President’s Men, to which Spotlight has rightly been compared. No swelling music. No ominous shots of menacing buildings.
But its A-list cast excels. Stanley Tucci (as volatile plaintiffs’ lawyer Mitchell Garabedian) and Liev Schreiber (as low-key editor Marty Baron) disappear into their roles. John Slattery, who plays Bradlee, looks more like team leader Walter Robinson than Michael Keaton, but Keaton captures Robby’s rumbling speech patterns.
Spotlight joins the pantheon of great films that celebrate, mock or scrutinize newspapers–those pulped tree packs that once plunked on everyone’s front steps.
Looking for another great feature film about journalism? Here are a few recommendations:
The Front Page (1931) The first of several screen versions of Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur’s satire of cut-throat Chicago journalism, with Pat O’Brien as the headstrong scribe and Adolphe Menjou as his ever-manipulative editor.
His Girl Friday (1940) Howard Hawks’ rat-a-tat Front Page remake with Rosalind Russell and Cary Grant as reporter/editor/exes. Classic dialogue, including Russell’s bone-dry salute to “Gentlemen of the press.”
Ace in the Hole (1951) Director Billy Wilder at his cynical best and Kirk Douglas at his amoral worst in this noirish tale of a washed-up reporter trading a life for a scoop.
Defense of the Realm (1968) Little-seen but gripping story of British ways of suppressing news, including terminating reporters with extreme prejudice, with Gabriel Byrne, Denholm Elliott and Greta Scacchi caught in a “national security” web of international intrigue.
All the President’s Men (1976) Director Alan Pakula’s compelling account of Washington Post’s Woodward (Robert Redford) and Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) unraveling of Watergate, complete with dark assignations and striking overhead shots. The film that launched 10,000 j school enrollments.
Absence of Malice (1981) Once you buy Paul Newman as a schlepper (hey, that’s Hollywood) Sydney Pollack’s intriguing saga of leaks, libel and source abuse raises some interesting ethical issues. Sally Field, Bob Balaban, Melinda Dillon excel.