All The Pope’s Men – ★★★★
It’s been 15 years since the events depicted in Spotlight broke. A story which highlighted how paedophile Catholic priests were knowingly moved from parish to parish within Boston, always evading prosecution. A story we would see repeated around the Catholic dioceses of the world. We follow the Spotlight team consisting of Mike (Mark Ruffalo) Robby (Michael Keaton) Sacha (Rachel McAdams) and Matt (Brian d’Arcy James) as they try and get to the heart of the story with some traditional journalism.
The reason for throwing the cat among the pigeons coincides with the arrival of a new editor from out of town by the name of Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber). He asks Spotlight to start investigating if there may be something in the alleged cover up of sex abuse within the Catholic church. The team gets to work and soon realise they are uncovering one of the biggest stories of their careers. As the story is unfolding within Boston, a heavily Catholic area, the team has to keep a tight lid on the investigation leading them to trust nobody and suspect everyone.
The atmosphere of how the church is so insidious within the community at large is expertly created by director Tom McCarthy. We realise the fear that individuals within the neighbourhood felt if they dared break their silence. Showing the reporters talking to victims of the abuse excellently captures how priests groomed and preyed on disadvantaged children in the area. Through their recounting it becomes clear the devastating effect the abuse had on their entire lives. Stanley Tucci plays lawyer Mitchell Garabedian who is representing the victims in an action against Cardinal Law. He maintains the Cardinal knew of the culture of moving priests thereby making him complicit in the abuse. This then becomes the focus of the investigation, not to highlight one or two abusive priests but to see how much the church knows.
The core actors are a great ensemble cast all working together with the only slightly odd note being Mark Ruffalo. One would imagine that he is more so doing an impression of his character which takes you out of the drama when he appears on screen. The supporting roles from Mad Men’s John Slattery to Ray Donovan’s Liev Schreiber are all superb. While having a core story to tell the film is also highlighting the importance of investigative journalism. How in the age of the internet articles are more focused on clickbait than concrete, solid researched and sourced content.
Some may ask why this story is being told so long after the events, believing that everything is resolved and settled. Unfortunately a heart breaking post script shows the relevance of this film. Most of the abuse seen here, which we can identify with in Ireland, took place during a climate of fear of the Catholic church and a culture of silence. It is imperative to show time and again the damage this outlook can inflict on a society. Next time we must not sit idly by and wait for someone else to say enough and take a stand.
Spotlight opens Friday the 29th of January