IMDB Synopsis: Idealistic Senate staffer Daniel J. Jones, tasked by his boss to lead an investigation into the CIA’s post 9/11 Detention and Interrogation Program, uncovers shocking secrets.
The Report is the story of one Senate staffer’s obsessive research into the CIA’s post 9/11 torture program, and as he uncovers the despicable nature of the program, seeks to secure its release to the public. Set mostly in government offices with vignettes into the past at CIA black sites, The Report is narratively straightforward, allowing the audience to learn of the staggering human rights violations in real time with the film’s characters. All done in the name of national security and counterterrorism, The Report not only sheds light (and abundant detail) on a dark and embarrassing chapter in American history, but also reveals the bureaucratic and procedural process that almost stifled the truth from ever surfacing.
Relying on a powerhouse performance by Adam Driver as Senate Intel Committee staffer Daniel Jones, The Report chronicles his journey to discover the truth of the CIA “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques” or EIT program. From a windowless basement research room at the CIA, Jones and his small staff spend the first 2/3 of the film investigating 119 detainees with varying ties to Al Qaeda, poring over 6.3 million CIA emails, reports, cables, and memos. Building a complete picture over the course of five-plus years, Jones transforms from diligent staffer to crusader for the truth. The audience is shown brutal recreations of the EIT program from its infancy through its completion, as well as the staggering ineptitude, cowardice and cover ups on the part of the CIA and the Bush administration to bury the information and ultimately the report.
The Report doesn’t shy away from detail or getting in the weeds of the investigation. It might move speedily through the phases of Jones’ research, jumping from year-to-year, and room-to-room, but it never feels overwhelming or impossible to follow. It operates as the anti-Zero Dark Thirty, eschewing style for substance. Showing that the process isn’t a slick operation, but result of dogged, thorough work and profound commitment to the process.
The last act of the film deals in governmental procedure and politicking. And shockingly, how close the report was to never being released, or at least the 500-page executive summary that was ultimately released via Senator’s McCain and Feinstein. It was never a question of the ineffectiveness of EITs. Never a doubt that it was a way to torture terror suspects. But The Report does two wonderful things. On one hand, it illustrates the systematic suspension of human rights on a granular level, and portrays DC and partisanship at its worst when confronted with release of the skeletons in our closet.
The Report serves a sobering reminder of the atrocities we’re capable of as a country—and more importantly—the commitment to ownership of the mistakes of those prior. Led by two incredible and nuanced performances from Driver and Benning, The Report should find a resonant place in 2019.
Highlights: A very strong supporting cast led by Annette Benning and Jon Hamm.
MVP: Annette Benning puts in a very strong, nuanced performance as Senator Diane Feinstein, but this is an Adam Driver vehicle. It begins and ends with his meticulous portrayal of Dan Jones.
Should you watch it: Movies like this that cast an insightful look backward, that shine a light on our muddied history, should be watched and enshrined. 8.5/10.
Director: Scott Z. Burns
Studio: Amazon // Original release date: November 15, 2019 (11/29/19 streaming on Amazon Prime)