Film Review – The Report (2019)

Adam Driver appears in The Report by Scott Z. Burns, an official selection of the Premieres program at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Atsushi Nishijima. All photos are copyrighted and may be used by press only for the purpose of news or editorial coverage of Sundance Institute programs. Photos must be accompanied by a credit to the photographer and/or ‘Courtesy of Sundance Institute.’ Unauthorized use, alteration, reproduction or sale of logos and/or photos is strictly prohibited.

It’s difficult to turn a 6,700-page State Intelligence report into a gripping political drama, but director Scott Z. Burns gives it a noble and thought-provoking stab. Adam Driver stars as the tenacious Daniel Jones – an investigator hellbent on exposing the CIA’s illegal implementation of torture following 9/11. Along with the State Department Committee, Jones uncovers the increasingly shocking use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” on detainees, lead by unqualified psychologists Bruce Jessen (T. Ryder Smith) and James Elmer Mitchell (Douglas Hodge).

Despite the continuous political jargon and office settings (unavoidable in a political drama), Burns just manages to escape getting bogged down in all the paperwork. Burns makes an easily tedious story-line visually compelling, using flashbacks, distressing violence and impassioned monologues to break up The Report into thrilling and digestible chunks, now available on Amazon Prime.

In the same way that Jones strives to publish a bluntly honest, straight-forward report of cold, hard facts, Burns delivers a realistic depiction of government corruption without embellishments. Grey, sterile interiors mirror Jones’s claustrophobic task, sacrificing the “sunlight” for the sake of justice. Both us and Jones are dragged back-and-forth through infuriating plot-twists, amplified by the fact these events really took place.

Presuming that you’ve kept up with the specialized dialect, The Report is an informative and eye-opening piece of drama that sparked an array of ethical debates after release. The film is a double-edged sword: on the one hand promoting America as a forward-thinking democracy able to recognize and correct its own mistakes, and on the other, exposing the corruption of the US government. Burns concludes the film with credits calling out the promotion of those responsible for torture – again, confirming its bravery to speak the truth.

Although we’re undoubtedly rooting for Jones from start to finish, Burns neglects to form a real connection with our protagonist. As most (or all) of the film is focused on the investigation and cover-up, we learn nothing of Jones as a person. No screen time is lended to his personal life – no backstory, relationships or emotional insights. Albeit Jones’s lack of a life is part of the point – compelling him almost into obsession to get the report published – the film is consequently devoid of much human substance. As Jones points out in The Report: you can’t black out the characters or the story won’t make sense. Perhaps if we knew Jones better, we would have felt a more intense drive for his victory.

 

 

 

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