The Report

THE PLOT:

Daniel Jones (Adam Driver) is a member of Senator Dianne Feinstein’s (Annette Bening) staff. Feinstein tasks Jones with investigating the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program that was instigated after the 9/11 attacks.

Jones exhaustive research uncovers a program of inhumane treatment and torture that was not only condoned by those in charge, but also covered up.

As Feinstein receives Jones’ 7000 page report, the bureaucratic machine gets underway to hinder and stop the release. Feinstein is forced to swim upstream to get this important report out to the public.

KENT’S TAKE:

“The Report” is a thriller based on the true events of Daniel Jones’ report compiled from millions of pages of CIA documents.

After 9/11, the CIA was allowed to capture and detain enemy combatants in order to get information and stop additional terror attacks. When Dianne Feinstein hears that the CIA destroyed tapes they had of detainee interrogations, she launches an investigation lead by Daniel Jones. When the Republicans hear that the Democrats are investigating the CIA, they immediately pull out of the investigation. Jones is now unable to interview anyone at the CIA, they must now cobble together a report from CIA documentation of their Detention and Interrogation Program.

Director Scott Z. Burns tells an important story about secrets and lies. This film is less political, although names are named and both political parties are called to task. This is more a narrative of bureaucracy and the failure of our government’s checks and balances.

As Jones tries to release the report, the CIA begins to use its power to throw hurdles up to delay or kill the reports release – delaying their rebuttal to the report, redacting all the incriminating evidence, and arguing that the report is inaccurate in describing the interrogations, etc.

Director Scott Z. Burns must be commended for trying to bring this story to the screen. The problem comes with the fact that this film is about a research investigation and the bureaucratic result of that investigation – not the sexiest or the most cinematic topic. Jones could not interview anyone in the CIA. Because of this situation, the compelling nature of accusation and response, the human interaction with characters and the strength of emotion, is missing in many aspects of this film. There are moments of tension as Jones makes a desperate decision that allows the CIA to use him as a scapegoat, and as presidential administrations change (from Bush to Obama and from Democrat majority to Republican majority), all parties know the report will be killed with the new Congress.

Adam Driver and Annette Bening give excellent performances and truly carry this film with the emotional responses to their discoveries and the CIA’s response in kind.

“The Report” is a story based in truth that is built as a race car, but given little fuel to accelerate the pace. The worthy subject, skilled acting, mindful directing and top-notch cinematography elevate this story, however, “The Report” would have been better as a documentary rather than as a feature length drama because this film plays more as the 7000 page report rather than its 500 page summary.

LYNN'S TAKE:

When politics overshadow policy decisions, no matter when or who’s in charge, things tend to go awry, as witnessed right after 9/11 sent America into a festering frenzy. “The Report” gives us a rear-view mirror account of some awful un-Geneva-like things that went astray. 

One thing is clear – ethics matter. God bless truth-seekers when it’s time for right over might. That’s the takeaway from director Scott Z. Burns’ delving into dense, complicated material assembled by Daniel J. Jones, at great personal risk, and making it lucid. 

Burns’ earnest approach is fairly even-handed, so if you’re going to take sides, there is troubling action on ‘both’ fronts. Nevertheless, its historical accuracy will press buttons and make folks’ angry.

While the subject matter is important, let’s face it, it’s wonky and bureaucratic, not exactly driven by action. The U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee’s 2014 probe into the CIA’s use of torture in the wake of 9/11 presents the shocking case for the over-the-line methods that were implemented in the fear-based climate after the most horrific terrorist attack ever on U.S. soil. 

An all-star cast helps explain what went down, what went wrong and why it matters. As Jones, Adam Driver delivers a serious, sincere performance, focused on doing the right thing. You believe in his integrity. Annette Bening projects Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s quest for truth, with realistic make-up and demeanor, and Ted Levine is a genuine ringer for former CIA chief John Brennan.

In supporting roles, Jon Hamm is a Washington insider and Matthew Rhys is a New York Times reporter.

Engrossing without it being thoroughly riveting, “The Report” reminds us of how necessary transparency is in a democracy, and that it’s worth a fight.