Thursday, November 14, 2019

The Report - Review

On the brink of additional political turmoil and strife in 2019, it seems oddly fitting to revisit the misguided decisions of past administrations with The Report. Like most other political dramas about the release or suppression of a scathing document, everything is by the book and fact-forward, a make it or break it move for most people’s viewing experience. In this case, it only helps the frustrating and insightful experience of the entire film.

FBI agent Daniel Jones (Adam Driver) performs an exhaustive investigation into the CIA's use of torture on suspected terrorists. In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the CIA adopted new interrogation techniques.

When dealing with a subject matter as serious as the material in The Report, a steady hand is not only advisable, but a necessity. There is nothing flashy about the film, it presents the facts, at least what one can include in a Hollywood production of the facts, and lets the audience stew in the implications of it all. Director and writer Scott Z. Burns won’t get a lot of praise for what is ultimately a pretty dry affair, but his restraint from going too big is commendable at the very least.

In its very scripted and structured way, The Report does feels like essential viewing for Americans who lived through or grew up during the early 2000s. It jumps from year to year, laying out a picture of a system hellbent on getting information with methods that didn’t work, and lying about it all. There is only so much one can get to in two hours, but The Report feels like a stepping stone to more people learning about or looking into EITs and the Torture Report itself.
Without a doubt the best aspect of the whole film though remains the performances from the constants from beginning to end. Adam Driver, who is having himself a fantastic year, brings the stoic, driven Daniel Jones to life, providing some valuable insight into a person striving to hold people accountable when very few do. And Annette Bening, playing the seasoned senator Dianne Feinstein, the head of this whole investigation, struggling to play the political game and reveal the truth to the world at the same time. Both performances are very precise and calculated, but again, it’s what the film requires and it works.

The Report is not going to amaze anyone by its craft or its storytelling. It’s unlikely to top the best of the year lists that are coming or get nominated for awards when the time comes (I still find it unlikely that Bening gets into a competitive supporting actress field). But what it does, it does well, and because of that, so many will find this film in theaters or on Amazon later this month and look into the history and the story behind it all. 

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