Film Review – The Report
The Report is an important, based on real events, drama that tells the story of corruption and falsehoods at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in the aftermath of the events of 9/11. Americans will be familiar with the photos and stories of mistreatment and torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib during the Iraq War in 2004, but the story goes deeper than that.
The film revolves around Daniel (Dan) Jones (Adam Driver), who works for the Senate. He is appointed by Senator Dianne Feinstein (Annette Bening) to head up a special investigative group to look into the accounts of CIA-sanctioned torture used post-9/11. What is left of these incidents of possible torture are only documents, emails, and the like, as the videos and tapes have already been destroyed, making the situation even more questionable. Working with eventually only two colleagues (played by Sarah Goldberg and Lucas Dixon), a massive report is finally submitted to the Senate Intelligence Committee. Throughout Dan Jones’ work in this investigative group, he finds numerous cases of torture that were deemed necessary to find the next 9/11 attack before it happened. The error of all of this is that none of it was backed by science, and its efficacy was touted by two psychologists Bruce Jessen (T. Ryder Smith) and James Mitchell (Douglas Hodge).
The Report is a complicated film, one that comes off as researched thoroughly and kept as close to the events that actually occurred. The limitation of such a film is the runtime of 118 minutes. We are introduced to the film through Dan Jones’ eyes slowly, but the pace picks up as soon as he is assigned to this special investigative group. The film deals with events that happened between 2002 and 2014 and they are mostly along a straight timeline, jumping back to 2002 when the prisoners were tortured. The director Scott Z. Burns uses an actual timeline on screen to keep the audience on track with how time progresses and wisely puts the year on screen when the film jumps back in time.
Assuming most audiences will not know how a Senate committee works or how it can investigate its government agency, the subject matter and all of the players involved become confusing, even for me. I lost track of who was who in the CIA hierarchy when it comes to the characters played by Maura Tierney, Joanne Tucker, Michael C. Hall, and Carlos Gómez. There are other CIA officials that pop into the story, the biggest being CIA Director John Brennan (Ted Levine), who plays an integral part in the latter half of the film. Suffice it to say that this film presents a lot of information and people into a short amount of time. The film moves too fast, and there is no time to catch your breath and contemplate what is going on. Moving at a breakneck pace works for some investigative films, but The Report has too much for the audience to learn in a short amount of time. I believe The Report would be better as a limited series, one that could devote more time to the subject and educate the audience better.
Adam Driver has already proven himself to be a capable actor both in comedy and drama and putting him in an investigative drama further demonstrates his ability to be compelling. In The Report, he can convey the stress and anxiety of the situations and the frustration of the inaction by the government. In a way, Dan Jones mirrors the audience, and we can put ourselves in his shoes, becoming impatient for the conclusion just as Dan is. I look forward to Driver in more films and series like this one.
The surprise of The Report is Annette Bening as longtime Senator Dianne Feinstein. With her perfectly coiffed hair into a signature style, large necklaces, and smart business suits, it was difficult to discern Bening from Feinstein. She held her stern, lipstick-stained lip as she navigated the political game. Scott Z. Burns was able to make her a quasi-hero because of her long political experience. Bening was able to make her endearing and strong, but also utterly frustrating because of her need to balance staying in office versus doing the right thing. Those two things don’t always match up.
The Report is a compelling look at what the CIA conducted themselves post-9/11 and the monumental amount of work that it took to bring it to the public’s attention. I view the film as bi-partisan as it throws plenty of light to the inaction and complacency of President Bush and President Obama, some of it because President Bush was never informed of what was happening. It is a reminder of what happens when the USA is thrown into significant turmoil, and government agencies are allowed to do anything that they wish to get results. People will take advantage of the loosening of the reins and do things that are unbecoming of what the USA stands for and fights against. If only The Report had a longer runtime or was a series so more time could be spent on the crucial details of this severe wrongdoing.