New editor Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber) faced the challenge of falling circulation and diminishing advertising revenue. But if anyone thought he would play it safe they had seriously misjudged him. He was just the outsider needed to bring a fresh eye to a story that cut to the heart of Boston society. Baron convinced the paper’s Spotlight team of reporters to investigate claims that the Catholic church was guilty of covering up decades of child abuse by priests. He wasn’t looking to name and shame a few individual priests, he wanted to expose a systematic cover-up by a Catholic hierarchy who not only knew what had been happening but did everything they could to protect their own and discredit the victims. The Spotlight team is like a dog with a bone, especially the excitable Michael Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo).
As boss Walter Robinson (Michael Keaton), reporter Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams) and Matt Carroll (Brian d’Arcy James) begin the painstaking business of building their story, the film really excels at depicting the nuts and bolts of journalism: the checking of sources; the interviewing of victims; the winning of confidences; the following of leads; the pounding of pavements; the trails that lead nowhere and the way a big story just takes over your life. Stanley Tucci is smart and believable as Mitchell Garabedian, a lawyer for the victims of abuse who is initially wary of trusting the Spotlight team.
The stories of priests abusing children have been around for years and the paper is as guilty as anyone of turning a blind eye. Why should he trust them now? One of the really satisfying elements of the film is how journalists have to face the fact that they have also been complicit in this conspiracy of silence. Robinson plays golf with some of the people he is investigating. He sees them socially and attends their charity events. Did that make him that little bit more reluctant to follow the truth, to publish and be damned?
As the Spotlight team begin to discover how far the cover-up went there is a sense that we have all been complicit in ignoring what has been happening in plain sight. You cannot help but find parallels with the case of Jimmy Savile and others in the UK.
Mark Ruffalo’s righteous anger and puppy dog enthusiasm make Rezendes an immensely appealing character but there really isn’t a weak link in the whole ensemble cast. Spotlight is the kind of completely absorbing film that makes you think, makes you feel and keeps you on the very edge of your seat.
Michael Caine provides a commanding presence as world-weary British composer Fred Ballinger. Happily retired, Ballinger is staying in a Swiss spa hotel, sharing memories and lingering regrets with his old friend Mick Boyle (Harvey Keitel), an American film director planning a final work that will stand as his masterpiece. Ballinger has no unfulfilled ambitions and even refuses a royal request for a special performance of his most popular work.
Ballinger’s loyal, selfless daughter Lena (Rachel Weisz) is also resident at the spa, tending to his needs. Youth offers a bittersweet reflection on growing older and remaining creative but it is very much a film in which style triumphs over substance. That said, it looks ravishing, is often absurdly funny and boasts an amazing cast that also includes Paul Dano as method actor Jimmy Tree and a splendid, acid-tipped cameo from Jane Fonda as an ageing Hollywood diva.
Antonio Banderas is the star name as “ Super” Mario, the unofficial leader of the group. When the mine collapsed the 33 survivors had three days’ worth of rations to sustain them but his positivity plays a big part in keeping spirits high as the days drag past and food and water start to dwindle. The most interesting aspect of The 33 is what it reveals about the social and economic divide in Chile where the miners often seemed expendable.
A decent, absorbing film but it all felt more urgent and compelling when it was unfolding on a daily basis on the news.
When militants attack it is Silva and a crack team who must defend the American compound in an action reminiscent of The Alamo. Harrowing scenes of carnage and death still fascinate Bay more than personal stories or political complexity so it makes for an exhausting watch that never lets up and rarely provides any contrast to the heat of battle.
There are gaping holes in the plot and unresolved tensions that undermine your belief in the story but this is still a promising, atmospheric tale from director Andrew Droz Palermo. Backtrack HH (Cert 15; 88mins) Troubled psychiatrist Adrien Brody sees dead people in Backtrack but this ropey Aussie thriller is no Sixth Sense. Grief-stricken by the tragic death of his daughter, Peter Bower (Brody) starts to realise that all of his patients have a spooky connection to events back in 1987.
But every half-hearted plot twist and supposedly startling jolt underlines just how feeble and derivative this all is. The end result is just silly rather than scary.