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Non-Review Review: Spotlight

Nominally, Spotlight is about the exposé that ran in the Boston Globe identifying dozens of paedophile priests who had been shuffled around Boston parishes and the corrupt institution that sheltered them. Thomas McCarthy’s film never shies away from the horror stories told by the survivors of such institutional abuse, nor does it ignore the systems that were complicit in perpetuating and covering up that abuse. Running just over two hours, McCarthy’s film is meticulous and painstaking as it sorts through all the leads and follows the unravelling thread.

However, Spotlight is also about something bigger. It is a story about institutional structures as they exist, and how those structures are primarily motivated to protect themselves. The big reveal in Spotlight is not that the abuse is taking place, it is just how many people tried in how many different ways to expose that abuse to the cold light of day. The Catholic Church might be the most significant institution involved in the cover-up, but Spotlight suggests that the structures of Boston (and implicitly all over the globe) failed the people who needed them most.

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Spotlight is a powerful film. McCarthy is not the most dynamic or exciting of directors, but his matter-of-fact presentation style suits the material perfectly. Towards the end of the film, journalist Matt Carroll jokes that he has started working on a horror novel to distract himself from the particulars of the case. Spotlight is very much a horror story, but a horror story where the discomfort is tied to the sheer inevitability. McCarthy’s camera is always definite and steady; a slow pan or zoom confirms what the audience already suspects, and is all the more effective for it.

McCarthy has assembled a fantastic cast, including John Slattery as Ben Bradley Junior. Bradley is the son of Benjamin Bradley Senior, the executive editor at The Washington Post who oversaw the Watergate coverage and who was played by Jason Robards in All the President’s Men. This creates a nice thread of real-life continuity for Spotlight, cementing its pedigree. McCarthy’s journalism epic is powerful stuff, and perhaps the most compelling endorsement of long-form investigative journalism to appear on screen in quite some time.

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Justice for the JLA: Warner’s New Stand-Alone Superhero Team-Up…

News broke during the week that Warner Brothers are planning a new Justice League movie, apparently for 2013. Reportedly Ryan Reynolds has not been approached to play the Green Lantern in the film, and – based on comments from both film makers – it’s unlikely that Zack Snyder’s Superman reboot or The Dark Knight Rises will play into the film in any meaningful way. One might consider that something of a marketing faux pas, as that would represent a fairly intense lead-in into the movie (as opposed to the four-odd years Marvel has been teasing The Avengers). Indeed, it has been suggested that the proposed Justice League movie might stand entirely on its own two feet, completely distinct from the superhero movies that Warners are churning out. If this sounds familiar, it’s because this was exactly the plan with the company’s last aborted attempt at a Justice League film.

Justice for all?

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