If you know me at all, you know that I love The Wire. Unfortunately, I often subconsciously compare just about everything I watch to the greatest show of all time (this is not up for debate), and almost nothing can compare. David Simon is one of very few writers who can tell an important story with unbelievably broad scope and brutal realism in a way that is endlessly entertaining. Because of this, I continually find myself sorely disappointed when watching other filmmakers try to address important social issues, because most just don’t understand how to balance truth, realism, and entertainment.
Simon, a former Baltimore Sun journalist, preached a ten-hour heavy-handed sermon on the death of journalism in The Wire‘s fifth season, which many viewers did not appreciate. I loved it, even if it lacked the subtlety that made the first four seasons so mind-blowingly amazing. Thomas McCarthy played arguably the most important character in that season — a dishonest, greedy, obnoxious, horrible journalist who will do whatever it takes to write a compelling story. Simon makes it abundantly clear that this type of “journalism” is detrimental to American society, because it twists the truth and keeps secrets from citizens. That season aired in 2008, and the state of journalism today is exponentially worse than it was back then. With the death of the newspaper and the ever-approaching death of serious Internet journalism, this is Buzzfeed’s world, and we’re all just gifs and memes, or whatever.
So, in steps McCarthy to write and direct the best film of the year, Spotlight. This movie, based on a true story, follows a 2001 investigative journalism team (the titular “Spotlight”) from The Boston Globe that dedicates all its time and resources to uncover and expose the facts of the cover-up of sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church. This is a story that no one wants to read about; it is unspeakably awful. But that is precisely why it is important. For such a great evil to simply be swept under the rug for years and years is unacceptable. That is why this team was willing to fight past adversity and opposition in order to discover the truth. People need to know when the weak and helpless are being oppressed and abused, even if that knowledge will tarnish some reputations.
As someone who plans to go into full-time ministry, this was an extremely sobering movie to watch. It is tempting for me to try to cover up my sins in order to protect my reputation as a minister of God’s Word, but I should be transparent enough to confess my sins and repent of them, showing off the grace and goodness of God to use even a sinner like me for His glory. I must be willing to shine a spotlight on my sins, “for nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light” (Luke 8:17). If I keep my sins a secret and continue walking in them, then I am in danger of becoming just like those priests — my heart is that evil. Thankfully, I serve a God who is infinitely greater than I am, and He has washed me in the blood of Christ, making me dead to sin and alive in Him.
This is undeniably an “important” film, which will likely turn many people off of it. But the themes it presents — integrity in life, truth in journalism, exposing hard truth regardless of consequences — are worth pondering for everyone. With a very Wire-like visual and narrative style (which is probably the main reason I liked it so much), McCarthy and his stellar cast tells a story that needs to be heard in a way that is accessible for everyone. Whether you are a Christian who feels the call to repentance, a writer who longs for the golden age of journalism to return, or just a fan of good cinema, this movie has the potential to be profoundly impactful.