‘Spotlight’ deserves its Best Picture buzz

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Spotlight (2015)

Directed by Tom McCarthy

In 2001, 53% of The Boston Globe’s daily readership identified as Catholic. Investigating a damning series of allegations that claimed over 70 priests in the Boston area alone were accused of molesting children could mean losing much of their business, if it wasn’t done right. So a small investigative squad known as Spotlight—made up, at the time, of boss Robby Robinson (Michael Keaton), Mark Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams), and Matt Carroll (Brian d’Arcy James)—discreetly talked to victims, church officials, lawyers, and anyone else who might be able to shed light on the scandal. Not surprisingly, in a city so predominantly Catholic, they encountered their share of tight lips—which made their mission even more important.

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Coming down from the high of his Best Actor nomination, Michael Keaton is still on the next level. Certainly a notch down from his incredible performance in the kooky “Birdman,” but still remarkable. He’s far from alone. The best ensemble so far this year gives Keaton all the support he needs, and then some. Rachel McAdams is always a reliable presence. Mark Ruffalo is enveloped in the essence of his eager character. James, who hasn’t had the roles in the types of movies the others have, holds his own. They’re all on the same playing field, and the story gives all four team members equal time. It’s the most balanced, consistent cast I’ve seen all year. And that’s just the leads. As a lawyer helping to shed light by representing sex abuse victims, Stanley Tucci delivers his finest performance since “The Lovely Bones.” He brings more than a few lighter, even funnier moments to the screen. Playing new Globe boss Marty Baron, Liev Schreiber gives what I consider the movie’s greatest performance. Which says a lot. It’s rare to see actors play normal people convincingly. It’s even rarer for normal characters to create an extraordinary film. “Spotlight” delivers on both.

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Going into “Spotlight,” you might think you know a lot about the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal. Most likely, you’d be wrong. While the film is far from preachy, it does make an informative case for the truth. It’s an eye-opening true account of a huge story. One that “Spotlight” recounts in two long hours. But any lack of upbeat energy is completely forgiven. “Spotlight” doesn’t need it. The early Best Picture favorite doesn’t disappoint.

8.5/10

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