The Report

I love your redaction: Adam Driver in The Report
Verdict: 
9/10 - The Report is a rare modern film, that is understated, thrilling, and thanks to its subject matter - utterly vital.
Release Date: 
Friday, November 15, 2019
Written by: 

Adam Driver plays Senate counter-terrorism staffer Daniel J. Jones in The Report - which follows his long quest to expose the C.I.A.'s torture programme.

9

One of the most talked-about films ahead of the 2013 Oscars was Zero Dark Thirty - a high-octane drama that told the story of how U.S. Navy Seals finally brought America's bete noire, Osama Bin Laden, to justice.

However, Senate counter-terrorism staffer Daniel J. Jones (Adam Driver) could not enjoy it because he knew it was based on false information.

Jones, the protagonist of Scott Z. Burns's new film The Report, began investigating allegations the C.I.A. was using torture interrogating terrorism suspects in 2009.

After sifting through 6.3 million documents, he and his small team - working from a tiny room without windows in the C.I.A.'s headquarters - produced a 6,700-page report that proved that not only had the C.I.A. used torture techniques, including waterboarding, sleep deprivation, and mock executions, but they had lied about their effectiveness - and the intelligence used for operations like the one that killed Bin Laden - could have been obtained without recourse to torture.

Burns's film is an old school intellectual thriller - one that creates tension through the shuffling of computer files and papers, and their human impact on the intrepid individuals. But the lack of braun does not mean it's not thoroughly absorbing.

Flashbacks to C.I.A. meetings show how, in the wake of 9/11, officials like Maura Tierney's Bernadette, worried about the next attack and aware that pushback from a Bush administration fighting the War on Terror was unlikely, approved an "enhanced interrogation" programme devised by military contractors James Mitchell (Douglas Hodge) and Bruce Jessen (T. Ryder Smith), and how officials and legal advisers look for loopholes to declare it within bounds rather than guard the law.

One question you may be asking is why weren't Jones and his report the scandal of the century? Why isn't he another instantly recognisable Snowden or Assange? Why has the fact the U.S. tortured (often innocent) people not passed into the logbook of American scandals like Watergate, or the Pentagon Papers?

The answer may lie in Driver's, exceptional, subtle, performance. An army veteran himself, the actor captures Jones's sense of duty and belief in the rules and the system.

This is not a man who set out to be a traditional hero, but one who wanted to serve his country, which he does by working diligently on the report for his boss, Senate Intelligence Committee Dianne Feinstein (Annette Bening).

 

Instead, the story Burns, an accomplished screenwriter making his directorial debut, wants to tell is one that is realistic about the process, and how good people, working within an imperfect system struggle to expose the truth - battling not against grand conspiracies, but vested interests that ensure documents go missing, witnesses are unavailable, and that even when complete and incontrovertible, publication is delayed and details redacted.

Although the horrors in Jones's report occurred during the Bush administration, the Obama White House does not come out of it well - with oily Chief of Staff Denis McDonough (Jon Hamm) and other officials as much a part of the machine that frustrates Jones as Republican and C.I.A. chiefs with a clear interest in a cover-up.

It's a vital film precisely because of this realism and attention to detail.

Jones worked extensively with Burns and Driver to ensure the script stays close to the truth and lacks sensationalism - but it is almost more thrilling because of it.

This is a movie where, despite the obvious evil at its heart, one is never sure that its understated heroes will win the day, or, given the fact that the full, unredacted report is still under wraps, they have done.

What makes it such an intriguing watch is the central question posed by Burns, and with his performance, Driver - whether true heroism lies in Hollywood-friendly acts of A Few Good Men-style exposure and confrontation, or in having the diligence to keep working against the odds to ensure the truth, or as much of it will ever be left unredacted.

© Cover Media

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