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Spotlight (Blu-ray Review)

19 Feb, 2016 By: John Latchem

Street 2/23/16
Box Office $37.51 million
$29.98 DVD, $34.98 Blu-ray
Rated ‘R’ for some language including sexual references
Stars Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, Stanley Tucci, Brian d'Arcy James, Billy Crudup, Paul Guilfoyle, Len Cariou.

Much of the buzz around the terrific Spotlight might have left average moviegoers with the impression that the film focused on the Catholic Church molestation scandal, and that is very much at the center of the film. But in many ways that’s not really what the film is about.

Spotlight relates story of how a team of investigative journalists for The Boston Globe in 2001 uncovered the scandal, pushing past the ways the Catholic Church was pressuring anyone so inclined from digging deeper and seeing how systemic the problem of priests abusing children really was, and how they moved priests from city to city to cover it up.

The film does a great job digging into the process of journalistic research at a time before the Internet was a prevalent tool for dispensing and receiving information. Spotlight is subtle and effective in conveying a message with which “The Newroom” was content to (wrongheadedly) bludgeon over viewers’ heads — presenting a case for the role of experienced journalists and credible media organizations to inject responsibility into the process, a task made so much harder in an era when anyone with a cell phone thinks they’re the next Woodward and Bernstein.

Speaking of the team that broke Watergate, Spotlight could almost be considered an unofficial sequel to All the President’s Men thanks to a familial coincidence. In President’s Men, Jason Robards played Ben Bradlee, executive editor of the Washington Post. Spotlight gives us “Mad Men” star John Slattery playing Ben Bradlee Jr., the Boston Globe assistant managing editor overseeing the paper’s investigative unit.

For what it’s worth, the real Bradlee Jr. has a brief cameo as a Globe reporter.

Bradlee also makes an appearance in the most significant of the Blu-ray’s three featurettes — a six-and-a-half-minute roundtable with the actual Globe journalists who investigated and broke the scandal story, intercut with clips from the film. It’s a nice reflection on the case and the challenges involved, such as how the same First Amendment that guaranteed the freedom of the press to obtain sealed documents also granted the freedom of religion the Church was counting on to keep those court documents sealed.

Also included is a two-and-a-half-minute featurette that briefly touches on the themes of the film but mostly serves as a trailer interspersed with interviews from the cast and director Tom McCarthy.

A tad more substantial but not very involved is a three-minute featurette about the cast and filmmakers praising the work of the actual journalists and how much has been lost in the evolution of news into entertainment brands, tying back into the film’s primary motif of the essential role a free press has in keeping the public informed.

About the Author: John Latchem

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