SPOTLIGHT

— by Jeff Schultz 
Is old-fashioned storytelling back in style? On the heels of the very different, but also narratively strong HATEFUL EIGHT comes this absolutely smashing journalistic account of one of the century-to-date’s greatest journalistic accomplishments — the exposing of the complicity of the Catholic Church in shielding child-abusing priests from justice. Scene by scene, line by line, brick by evidential brick, director Tom McCarthy (whose four previous features you’ve probably never heard of) and a killer ensemble cast take you through what it took to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds in challenging what was arguably Boston’s most powerful institution. To a man and woman, there is not a single performance that’s not note-perfect, made more remarkable by the fact that these performances gain in power as the movie progresses because no one is trying too hard. (Indeed, the one “big moment” — a rant by Mark Ruffalo — packs such a wallop for being so uncharacteristically jarring.) Ruffalo gets top billing and deserves whatever honors come his way. But I’d hate to be the one who has to choose between him or the glorious Michael Keaton, now so firmly strapped into the second wind of his later career. Or Rachel McAdams, so diligently natural she disappears into her role. Or the astonishing Liev Schreiber, who barely moves a muscle yet whose creative gravity gets the ball rolling and keeps it in motion. Not to mention Stanley Tucci — is there anything this actor cannot do? — who can be so deliciously over-the-top when necessary, but here tamps it down, letting his passionate humanity effortlessly rise to the surface. The list goes on. We know, of course, going in how the scandal played out, so it’s not a surprise when the story gets printed, leading to an avalanche of further abuse claims and the resignation (actually reassignment) of the putrid Papist Cardinal Bernard Francis Law (still alive but destined for Hell). Still, as copies of the Globe with the article we’ve waited for for two hours come rolling off the press in classic newspaper-movie fashion, I got a lump in my throat and felt at least a tiny bit of the overwhelming emotion and delayed vindication that the true victims must have felt at the time. This is a very great picture, indeed.   

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