A superb Spotlight

It’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up.

That age-old but ageless adage is forcefully reinforced in Spotlight, the stellar dramatization of the Boston Globe’s Pulitzer Prize-winning – and, with little exaggeration, earthshattering – series of articles about the molestation of young parishioners by Boston clergy that had been effectively suppressed by the Archdiocese for decades.

The crimes were heinous enough, but the cover-up was unforgivable.

The real-life drama is so compelling by itself that director Tom McCarthy, who wrote the screenplay with Josh Singer, avoids easy sensationalism or melodramatic manipulation, neither of which is necessary. This is an important story told assuredly and credibly, and with appropriate righteous indignation – an unbeatable combination.

Spotlight is steeped in authenticity, capturing the day-to-day pace of a metropolitan newspaper in effortless fashion and offering a convincing portrayal of how the journalists did their work (and their homework), pursuing the story with tenacity, passion and patience — going up against no less an institution than the Catholic Church, which is hardly above using public denunciation, intimidation or even threats to maintain the veil of secrecy.

Roles large and small are played with collective and individual excellence. This is unquestionably one of the year’s strongest ensemble casts: Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, Brian d’Arcy James, John Slattery, Jamey Sheridan, Billy Crudup, Neal Huff, Michael Cyril Creighton and Len Cariou – with Michael Keaton (as Spotlight editor Walter “Robby” Robinson) and Stanley Tucci (as attorney Mitchell Garabedian, a cynical crusader) shown off to particularly good advantage.