'Spotlight' shines as one of year's best films

“Spotlight” is based on the true story of the Boston Globe investigative crew (Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams and Brian d’Arcy James) that uncovered allegations of abuse in the Catholic Church.

“Spotlight” is a film that is as meticulous as its main characters, a superbly crafted drama that perfectly captures the day-to-day activity in the newsroom and how it can have a lasting effect on the community in which it covers.

“Spotlight” is much more than that, with compelling subject matter and a deep and talented cast that help make this one of the best films of 2015.

“Spotlight” is based on the true story of the Boston Globe investigative crew (Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams and Brian d’Arcy James) that uncovered allegations of abuse in the Catholic Church. It was an investigation that revealed cover-ups involving higher-ups in Boston’s religious order as well as government agencies.

As the year-long investigation continued, the group of reporters discovered this wasn’t just a problem in Boston, but one that stretched throughout the world.

The cast also includes Liev Schreiber as the new Boston Globe editor who pushes the team toward uncovering the story, Stanley Tucci and Billy Crudup.

It should come as no surprise that this is an actor’s movie, with director Tom McCarthy a long-time actor before stepping behind the camera. McCarthy allows his actors room in their performances and the result is a cast full of outstanding work. Schreiber and Keaton get the low-key moments, but are both quite effective, with Ruffalo sinking his teeth into the film’s meatiest role.

McCarthy has a good eye for the newsroom and the almost tedious day-to-day footwork of being a newspaper reporter. It’s a film that understands the newspaper business perhaps better than any film (and that includes “All The President’s Men”). It brings excitement to taking a phone call from a source, much like “The Social Network” was able to draw drama out of creating Facebook.

“Spotlight” also that makes a strong case for the relevance of newspapers even in the world of social media.

But you don’t have to work in the newspaper business to appreciate the storytelling in “Spotlight” and the drama created from what was uncovered and who helped cover it up. Those moments are as intense as any thriller in recent memory, giving “Spotlight” that extra kick that makes it an unforgettable cinematic experience.

Also in theaters

On the other end of the spectrum this week is “Krampus” (C), the anti-Christmas movie that wants to be naughty, but ultimately misses the mark.

The set-up for this horror-comedy is simple – a young boy (Emjay Anthony) becomes disenchanted with the holidays and accidentally summons a demon that is intent on punishing the boy and his entire family (Adam Scott, Toni Collette and David Koechner among them).

Director Michael Dougherty, who also cowrote the script, is clearly trying to take aim at being the darker Christmas alternative. There are moments that work, including a fun visual with evil gingerbread men, but the premise takes way longer to develop than it should. The material could have been darker as well, but is limited by a more audience friendly PG-13 rating (a decision that clearly worked, judging by its better-than-expected box office returns on opening weekend).

The cast is fine given the limitations of the script, even if it seems weird to see the likes of Scott and Collette in a film with a premise that feels just a shade above straight-to-DVD level.

The ending does provide at least a mildly inventive twist, but it is too late to redeem it by that point.

If you must celebrate the holidays with a dark Christmas-themed film, I suggest seeking out the 2010 Finnish film “Rare Exports.” “Krampus” leaves a lot to be desired.

“Krampus” is PG-13 for sequences of horror violence/terror, language and some drug material and is now playing at the Regal Bowling Green Stadium 12 and Highland Cinemas in Glasgow.

— To read Micheal Compton’s thoughts on all movies, visit his blog at bgdailynews.com/blogs/reel_to_reel or on Twitter at twitter.com/mcompton428. Email him at mcompton@bgdailynews.com.

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