“I’m not crazy. They control everything,” says a character in Tom McCarthy’s brilliant new film, Spotlight (now playing at AMC and Landmark theaters regionally). “They,” in this case, refers to the Boston Catholic Church, and “everything” is no hyperbole: the Church has its hand in nearly every level of authority in the city. What unfolds over the film’s 128 minutes is a mighty effort by a newspaper to loosen that control.
Modeled after another investigative journalism classic in which a newspaper helps bring to light the dark secrets of a powerful institution, Spotlight could also have been titled All the Parish’s Men.
While Spotlight and 1976’s All The President’s Men are testaments to old-fashioned, boots-on-the-ground investigative reporting, they are also about the moral institutional decay that builds up over time through coverup, corruption, and complacency. In the 1970s, it was Richard Nixon’s White House. In 2001, when Spotlight takes place, it is the Catholic Church of the city of Boston, where more than half of The Boston Globe’s readers are Catholics.