Tom McCarthy‘s Spotlight hit a grand slam with everyone who attended Monday night’s Princess of Wales’ screening — hearty cheers, whoo-whoos, crowd on its feet. You could feel the love all over. And then McCarthy and the brilliant ensemble cast — Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Brian d’Arcy, John Slattery and Liev Schreiber — came on-stage with the real-life, real-deal Boston Globe guys they play in the film — ‘Spotlight’ editor Walter “Robby” Robinson (Keaton), Globe reporters Michael Rezendes (Ruffalo), Sacha Pfeiffer (McAdams), Matt Carroll (d’Arcy), former managing editor Ben Bradlee, Jr. (Slattery) and former Globe editor Marty Baron (Schreiber).

And then Ruffalo delivered an impromptu “thank you, hats off” speech to the real-deal guys (above), and everyone was just delighted and laughing and applauding. A total bliss-out.

Spotlight (Open Road, 11.6) is a drop-dead guaranteed hit. Even, I predict, with the dumb-asses who prefer escapist CG slop to smart movies. Every sector of the audience is going to be won over because it makes you feel good and proud all over. This is one brilliant film about tenacious good-guy journalists accomplishing a truly heroic and compassionate thing in a thorough, uber-professional way — what’s not to applaud? Best Picture-wise Spotlight is the movie to beat right now.  That’s not to say that some film won’t come along and kick its ass, but no other contender I’ve seen this year delivers quite as fully.  

(l. to r.) Walter “Robby” Robinson, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Sacha Pfeiffer, Matt Carroll, Brian d’Arcy, Tom McCarthy.

(l. to r.) Baron, Slattery, Bradlee, Rezendes, Ruffalo, Robinson, Keaton, McAdams, Pfeiffer, Carroll, d’Arcy, McCarthy.

(l. to r.) Marty Baron, John Slattery, Ben Bradlee, Jr., Michael Rezendes, Mark Ruffalo.

From my 9.6 Telluride review: “I was so happy and delighted with Spotlight that 20 minutes after it began I was telling myself I want to see it again. I was getting such a gripping, step-by-step, mother’s milk high that I really wanted to double up on it. This is what a pleasurable experience does to you. It makes you a little nuts.

“This is a fact-based procedural (set in ’01 and early ’02) about a team of Boston Globe journalists going after a Boston archdiocese and a political network of Catholic-kowtowing flunkies who were either ignoring or protecting child-molesting priests.

“It’s directed in such a clean and unobtrusive manner and acted in a not-too-forced, just-right fashion by everyone top-to-bottom (Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, Brian d’Arcy, John Slatery, Gene Amoroso, Jamey Sheridan, Stanley Tucci, Billy Crudup…a knockout cast) that right after it ended I tweeted as follows: ‘It sounds distasteful to say this given the root subject matter, but Tom McCarthy‘s Spotlight is pure pleasure…totally gripping stuff.’

Spotlight is the best straight-journalism flick since All The President’s Men. It’s completely familiar and by-the-book, and yet immensely smart and engagingly complex and quite satisfying. It runs 128 minutes, and I was feeling so engaged and fulfilled that I would have been totally okay with a three-hour running time. It’ll definitely be a hit with Joe Popcorn, critics, Academy and guild members, 75 year-olds — nobody is going to give it a thumbs-down.”