Certificate: 15

Running Time: 129 mins

Star Rating: 4/5

AT its best, investigative journalism is a scalpel that cuts readers to the bones of institutions that should be defending our interests. In early 2002, the Spotlight Investigations team of the Boston Globe ran a series of meticulously researched articles, exposing the sexual abuse of minors in the Boston archdiocese. Coverage of the scandal rippled far beyond the city and compelled other victims to come forward, sending shockwaves through the Roman Catholic Church. The newspaper was subsequently awarded the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service in Journalism for its courageous and comprehensive coverage, which lifted a heavy veil of secrecy stretching back several decades. Thomas McCarthy's impeccably crafted drama that crackles with tension pays tribute to the close-knit team of editors and reporters who pursued the ugly truth.

Deputy Managing Editor Ben Bradlee Jr (John Slattery) presides over the Boston Globe newsroom and has direct responsibility for the Spotlight team led by Walter "Robby" Robinson (Michael Keaton). Down in the basement, Robby and colleagues Michael Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams) and Matt Carroll (Brian d'Arcy) invest thousands of man hours following leads. Their work is valuable, but costly, and incoming Boston Globe editor Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber) makes clear he is willing to make difficult cuts.

Attorney Mitchell Garabedian (Stanley Tucci) claims to have documents which prove Cardinal Bernard Law (Len Cariou) knew about abuse within the diocese and did nothing. Battle lines are drawn and Robby pleads with his writers to keep their emotions in check as they are confronted with horrific stories of shattered innocence.

Spotlight is a clinical, precise and riveting dramatisation of a bloody war of words in a city in the thrall of the church. The ensemble cast are exemplary with Ruffalo gifted the film's stand-out scene of unfettered indignation that undoubtedly secured him an Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actor. Some of the characters don't feel fully formed, sacrificed perhaps in favour of a forensic pursuit of the facts. Josh Singer and director McCarthy's script crackles with tension.