Esther McCarthy reviews Spotlight and The 33
Spotlight (15A) *****
Set in early 2000s Boston, the film tells how the Boston Globe’s investigative team - Spotlight - look at how the Catholic Church routinely moved and reassigned abusive priests around city and the state, leading to wide scale sexual abuse of children.
It’s an important film, but never a wearisome, worthy one - Tom McCarthy, directing his own script, does a super job of upping the ante and the tension as the full horror of what is being exposed unveils.
It will strongly resonate with Irish audiences, too. We’ve our own shocking experiences of clerical abuse in this country, while the roll call of priests’ names investigated in Boston are as Irish as they come.
The movie’s title refers to a group of journalists hired by The Boston Globe to investigate clerical sexual abuse in the city in 2001. What they discovered was abuse carried out by up to NINETY priests and attempted cover ups on a massive scale.
It also highlights the legal threats the team faced by a wealthy and lawyered-up Church - which was paying off victims to keep the abuse secret.
The movie also shows how the team toiled to secure the cooperation of top lawyer Mitchell Garabedian (played by Stanley Tucci) who’s representing most of the plaintiffs in the Geoghan case and could hold the key to the extent of the cover up.
The son of Irish Catholic immigrants to Boston, Geoghan was reassigned several times to posts involving children - even after he had undergone treatment for pedophilia. The film builds gradually and surely, as the journalists realise the enormity of the story sitting under their noses. Keaton, Ruffalo and McAdams may be big-name stars but they make great reporters, and everything about their performances is believable.
The 33 (12A) ***
The working-class miners trapped in a Chilean mine in 2010 was destined to be a sad foreign news story of mass deaths.
Instead, the men were discovered to be all alive weeks after the collapse - and the subsequent race against time to save them became championed by people all over the world.
The 33 does a fine job of re-enacting those events and giving us a sense of the technical and logistical nightmare that was getting them out alive - though it’s often let down by a flabby script.
Faithfully recreating the circumstances leading up to the collapse - which unfolds onscreen - the film goes on to show the sheer scale of their plight and the likelihood that they will die from starvation or the effects of the ninety degree heat long before rescuers get to them, if they manage to do so at all.
Though theirs is most acute, they’re not the only ones suffering. Hundreds of meters above ground, their wives, siblings and parents are bereft, with no idea if their loved ones are alive or dead, and few commitments from the mining company which would rather the problem would just go away.
It’s a flawed film, but as it builds to its dramatic finale it’s hard not to be both riveted and inspired by this story.