The Report Review

The Report
Washington 2009. Idealistic Senate staffer Daniel Jones (Adam Driver) is tasked to lead an investigation into the ‘enhanced interrogation’ tactics of the CIA in the aftermath of 9/11. Jones’ research job becomes an obsession, one which intensifies when he faces an uphill battle to get his incendiary findings published.

by Ian Freer |
Published on
Release Date:

15 Nov 2019

Original Title:

The Report

Scott Z. Burns’ film initially announces itself as The Torture Report until the word “Torture” gets blocked out or — in CIA parlance — redacted. The more prosaic, less emotive title suits Burns’ film down to the ground. As a director, Burns, a writer for Steven Soderbergh on The Informer, Contagion and The Laundromat, has little interest in the handheld shenanigans and directorial razzle-dazzle of his collaborator. Instead, The Report is a sober but enthralling slice of recent US history, dense rather than dramatic, never easy but always engrossing, driven by a top-drawer Adam Driver.

The Report

The first half follows Senate staffer Daniel Jones (Driver) making a classified investigation into the use of torture on suspected Al-Qaeda terrorists in the aftermath of 9/11. It’s no mean task. Operating without political affiliation and answering only to the Senate Intelligence Committee — chiefly Annette Bening’s Senator Dianne Feinstein — Jones and his small team work in a sterile, windowless white room combing through 6.3 million pages of documents to find the truth. As Burns investigates the 119 Middle Eastern detainees, the film flashes back (in jaundiced imagery) to reveal the enhanced interrogation techniques: prisoners hidden away at black sites in dungeons, getting slammed against walls, being deprived of sleep, “short-shackled” to the floor, or being water-boarded, all to the sounds of death metal. When one prisoner is water-boarded 183 times without yielding any results, Senator Feinstein asks simply: “If it works, why did they need to do it 183 times?” This is not prevention. It’s revenge.

A challenging watch driven by intelligent writing that corrals mountains of information into compelling drama.

If it sounds like a movie where Adam Driver Googles stuff (it isn’t), it’s much more than that. In the second half it ratchets up even further as Jones battles to get his 7,000-page investigation made public, caught in the crossfire between the White House and Congress as he is forced into the position of scapegoat. Like All The President’s Men or Margin Call, it’s (mostly) a mentalkingquickly film, a deep dive into a complex milieu with little in the way of life buoys to help you stay afloat. It’s a challenging watch — Burns cheekily references Zero Dark Thirty as if to ratify the seriousness and authority of his own movie — driven by intelligent writing that corrals mountains of information into compelling drama.

Info-heavy dialogue needs great delivery and The Report also benefits hugely from Adam Driver. Jones is essentially a boy scout, a potential stock dogged-whistleblower type driven to do the right thing, and Burns gives us little insight into his life outside his little white room. Yet Driver’s wiry intensity makes him live a little more. As he seeks to expose both a morally wrong policy and the attempts to cover it up, his obsession becomes our obsession. And his anger becomes our anger too.

An urgent rebuke to a country losing its conscience, The Report is rigorous but riveting. And Adam Driver — once again — emerges as one of the most watchable actors working today.
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