It’s June 1944 and just days before D-Day when the Allies plan to land on the beaches of Normandy. Only British PM Winston Churchill has become more and more marginalised from the military planning – and the splendidly bombastic Brian Cox (X-Men, The Bourne Identity) is not happy.
Director Jonathan Teplitzky (The Railway Man, Burning Man) focuses on the irascible Churchill, at odds with wife Clemmie (a long-suffering Miranda Richardson – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, The Hours) as well as President Eisenhower (John Slattery – Mad Men) and General Montgomery, head of the British forces. The result is a moderate, one-paced drama with little sign of Churchill’s famed charm or wit.
Engrossingly procedural, Spotlight matter-of-factly follows investigative journalists of The Boston Globe uncover a decades-long cover-up by the Catholic Church of sexual abuse by priests on children. In doing so, they reveal the culpability of the police, local government and their own newspaper.
In choosing to avoid overt emotion on screen, director Tom McCarthy (The Station Agent, Win Win) manages to tell a tale succinctly and powerfully. As the level of cover-up slowly unfolds, so the revelations of the team leave you in disbelief: the ramifications of their discoveries were felt around the world.
Spotlight is a real ensemble piece, with quiet, nuanced performances by Mark Ruffalo (The Avengers, Foxcatcher) and Rachel McAdams (Sherlock Holmes, Midnight in Paris), both of whom received Oscar nominations. But Michael Keaton (Birdman, Batman) was inexplicably left out, with Stanley Tucci (The Devil Wears Prada, The Hunger Games), Liev Schreiber (Salt, X- Men Origins: Wolverine) and John Slattery (Mad Men, Ant-Man) all in fine form.
It’s not an enjoyable film in the true sense of the word, but, like films such as All the President’s Men and Network, it’s an important one. And it’ll leave you disgusted and mortified.