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By Heinrich Domingo

Realities are to be portrayed as real. Today’s movies based on actual life events tend to romanticize stories and repackage realities. In order to create a heart-pounding action-packed epic film, the plot is exaggerated, musical scoring is overdone, and characters are portrayed as fearless heroes. Spotlight takes another route and tells its story as is. It turns a repulsing story into an exciting drama sans loud cries and tragic confrontations. This movie allows viewers to focus more on the revelation it is about to unfold rather than on the shimmering images flashed on the big screen.

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A group of investigative reporters covers a sexual abuse story involving the Roman Catholic Church. As they unravel one story over another, more and more victims turned themselves in. Their report is not actually a local newspaper story but a global crisis that can wane the foundation of a big institution. These reporters (played by Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, and Michael Keaton among others) then turned this story into a personal vendetta providing sensitive documents that could vindicate the sexual offender priests.

A sickening tale on pedophile priests set in the boring world of investigative reporting challenges the movie to sustain excitement. Yet, rather than succumb to what is popular and easy, the filmmakers continued to entice the audience with a brilliant ensemble of cast. It is simply difficult to pull off a newspaper story detailing the tedious task of investigating and the disappointing struggle to publish the truth. Viewers of today love shortcuts. They would devour an appetizing steak served in front of them but rejects to see how the t-bone is cut out from the cow. But, just like Citizen Kane and All the President’s Men, this film successfully guides the audience in an elaborate trail towards the truth.

Investigative journalism is a dirty work. There is no easy way of getting the truth but to rummage through the pile of rubbish and sniff in what is news-worthy. In one of ten tons of garbage, a valuable interviewee might rise. Step by step, Spotlight brought the audience in a spree dedicated towards persecuting the sex offenders. And for hardcore Catholics who put prime to priests next to bibles, this film can still be great. There is a point in the movie when the reporters are no longer exposing the rotting secrets of the church. Their fight became bigger than the man-made institution. They became seekers of justice to a world full of monsters.

Director Tom McCarthy remained true to the screenplay he has co-written. The story shall not be glamorized. The difficulty of investigative reporting shall not be watered down. And, the cinematography shall not be overkilled. Spotlight is consistent in its cinematic vibe and loyal in its plot.

McCarthy’s vision requires a specific cast. Ruffalo, McAdams, and Keaton are what the screenplay needed. Their performance is one that is well-calculated and just right. They need not cry to portray drama. They need not be theatrical to portray a thriller. And the movie itself need not show sex to portray sex scandal.

Spotlight can be unfriendly for adrenaline rush junkies. It can be boring to feeble minds whose definition of entertainment is spectacle. But for moviegoers who seek for reality portrayed realistically, this movie should be on your center stage.

4 stars

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