I saw two excellent movies over the Thanksgiving holiday. First I saw "Spotlight," the journalism procedural investigating whether Cardinal Law knew about the priest pedophiles in his Boston diocese. We identify with the reporters in their incredulity, and that makes it possible to sit through the unfolding horror. It's an important movie, too, because it honors not just The Boston Globe but the reporters at Abu Ghraib, Mi Lai and every police shooting. It was not enough to learn it at Watergate. The real crime is in the systemic cover up.
"Bridge of Spies" also honors someone who is very good at his job, an insurance attorney whose opening statement defends a company payout as being a single accident recompense for a driver who hits five motorcyclists. That means the company pays $100,000, not $500,000. It's not an auspicious beginning but it's how James Donovan (Tom Hanks) reads the contract; he proceeds to defend a spy according to the contract that is Constitutional law, to the disgust of judge, jury, press and CIA. And he goes on to disgust the CIA man further by insisting on negotiating with the Russians as he sees fit.
"Bridge of Spies" is placed in the 1950s, but Donovan is a man for today. He would not countenance proposals to spy on every Mosque in the U.S. or require Muslims to carry identity cards or deny citizenship to all children born here. He is a stickler for the law. He says that since we're a nation of immigrants, the Constitution is all we have to hold us together.
Visit EarthBeat, NCR's new reporting project that explores the ways Catholics and other faith groups are taking action on the climate crisis.
Today we are living in a grim season of lies and theft, a corruption that corrodes our moral fiber like battery acid. "Spotlight" and "Bridge of Spies" both are about the quiet heroism of doing one's job well. They remind me of Ephesians 13:6, "Put on the full armor of God so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand." These movies gave me heart in this bleak November.