The Report - B
Rated R, 120 minute
The thought-provoking, well-acted new drama "The Report" examines a crucial point in U.S. history following the 9/11 in which our government allowed for the use of torture tactics, in spite of its limited effectiveness. Occasionally preachy and covering the same ground as "Zero Dark Thirty" (which is referenced here), it's a compelling, real-life study of the complexities of war and political intrigue.
Senate staffer and investigator Daniel J. Jones (Adam Driver) is tasked with leading an investigation into the CIA's systematic torture of terrorist suspects in the years following the September 11 attacks. The investigation concludes that the so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques" used by the CIA were brutal, immoral, and ineffective forms of torture, and that the CIA routinely misrepresented these facts to policymakers. When the Senate Intelligence Committee, led by Dianne Feinstein (Annette Bening), attempts to publish their findings, they have to contend with the CIA and White House's attempts to block and undermine the report.
Insightful and relevant, "The Report" is directed and written by "Contagion" and "The Informant!" writer Scott Z. Burns in his feature film debut. Much like the exhaustive, actual, complex 6700-page report (often referred to as "The Senate Torture Report") that Jones produced, it can be a little dry and slow-moving, but the solid performances from Driver, Bening, as well as a strong supporting cast including Jon Hamm, Tim Blake Nelson, Michael C. Hall and Ted Levine, help add a few memorable layers to an intriguing subject.
That said, source material could in effect be both the strengths and weaknesses of a film like "The Report," which occasionally comes across as a junior-league "All the President's Men;" the interest is there, but it's execution is important, i.e. you don't want to bore your audience. The film relies heavily on flashback, a tricky cinematic device if there ever was one, and it works modestly well, giving a somewhat uneven flow to the narrative. Burns is best when he stays focused with Jones' pursuit of the truth and what it took to get there, and the film's better moments tend to come there.
"The Report," until its coda, also tends to underscore the importance of Jones' work - it ultimately led to the banning of torture tactics - and it likely would've been more useful to outlay that in the beginning. Still, Driver and Bening make for a good team and what it lacks in power comes in insight and knowledge. And, we know that knowledge is the real power. Worth a look, it opens in limited theatrical release before premiering on Amazon Prime.