Adam Driver spends a lot of time yelling at people in government buildings during The Report. And yet, this dry, simplistic approach to a film based on true events is a great political thriller that dives deep into the CIA’s torture, or “enhanced interrogation techniques,” program following the 9/11 attacks, such as water boarding, sleep deprivation,
Driver plays Daniel Jones, a Senate staffer tasked by Senator Dianne Feinstein (Annette Benning) to lead the investigation into the program’s misrepresentation of facts and successes. The first half of the film flits between flashback and the secluded room of the Senate Jones and his team works in. They scour 6.3 million of the CIA’s own documents to put together the torture report over the course of five years. The investigation consumes Daniel as he frustratingly loses his accesses to sources and is ultimately framed by the CIA, accused of hacking into their system to read top secret documents.
This first half, when it moves between the past and the present, has some extraneous scenes, making it hard to keep track of the order of events. But when it moves into the second half, once Jones and the Committee have compiled the report, The Report turns into a riveting political thriller. Receiving push back from the CIA, who’s blocking every attempt to release the report, Jones and Senator Feinstein rally for the truth. A lot of it is just people talking in rooms, but what the first half lacked in terms of coherent story telling, the second half benefits well from. Expertly edited together, the film takes on an ever intensifying tennis match-like drama.
Directed by Scott Z. Burns (Contagion, The Borne Ultimatum), The Report is all facts. Because of its exposition-heavy premise (there is a lot of information to get across), the film doesn’t dwell on anything but the investigation and the tension between the Senate and the CIA. In the very first scene, Jones admits to his lawyer that the investigation affected a relationship of his, but we never once get to see that. Ultimately, that’s the right call. Watching Jones spiral into the investigation just within the confines of the Senate basement is enough to understand what kind of affect it’s having on his life. We also see it through his other team members, one of which accepts another job and leaves the rest of the report to the two remaining people. Even with this amount of exposition, Burns handles relaying it all well, using interviews and news broadcasts verbatim for some of the dialogue.
The amount of exposition doesn’t take away from any emotional aspects of the film, though. There’s still an argument for morality and the importance of truth, and with each revelation of what the CIA covered up and lied about, you can feel the air being sucked from the room. It’s got the feel of All the President’s Men, with the same search for truth that powered that film. Two days after it’s premiere at Sundance, The Report was bought by Amazon. They’re looking for an Oscar push, so expect this film to release closer to the fall. But when it does, make sure you’re in the theater. You don’t want to miss this.