I watch a lot of movies. In 2004, I watched one called "The Station Agent," which was wonderful. It was Tom McCarthy's first film, which he made for about $500,000 - starring someone no one had heard of at the time called Pete Dinklage. McCarthy had been a bit part actor around Hollywood for a while, and decided to try his hand at directing - and he did a good job. So I watched "The Visitor" as soon as I could get my hands on it, and damn, that's a good movie. In fact, as a director he has only one flat-out stinker on his record ("The Cobbler," at 10% on Rotten Tomatoes). "The Visitor" is his lowest rated at 89% - ironically, I'd probably argue that it's still his best.
"Spotlight" is the name of a team of reporters with the Boston Globe who focus on one story for a long time, really dig into it. In 2001 the paper's brand new editor Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber) who had been on the job one day, pointed them at a court case against an abusive priest and the sealed documents in the case. From there it just kept growing, getting bigger, scarier, and more horrible.
The movie is both a thank-you and a plea that we not lose this type of investigative journalism - and McCarthy's right, no website news outlet has the resources to handle something like this - especially not at the local level. The Church would have won, and that would have been very bad.
As a movie, it's done extraordinarily well, with one of its greatest virtues being its relatively simple structure. It lays out the problem, and then follows the reporters as they follow threads, hit roadblocks, and stumble on ever larger cover-ups. The team of reporters consists of Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, and Brian d'Arcy James, all of whom are excellent. All the supporting roles are filled, often with actors just a prestigious - and more importantly, acting well. A great piece of work.