Jacob Richardson | 13/11/2019
Scott Z. Burns and Adam Driver manage to make the compilation of 7000 pages of writing exciting.
Senator Dianne Feinstein (Annette Benning) enlists one of her senate staff to review the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques as part of a senate enquiry. The man for the job is Dan Jones (Adam Driver), who throws himself into this work for years on end and comes to one undeniable conclusion; enhanced interrogation is, in plain english, torture. Having compiled a thorough report on the atrocities committed during the Iraq War, he then faces a second, more dangerous battle; trying to get people to read it.
The premise of this film sounds interminably boring. One man, trapped in a small room for over two years, drafting pages and pages of documentation and meticulously reading through every email communique, memo and meeting agenda he can get his hands on, all to provide that the CIA tortured terrorists in the Iraq War. Given the director and the producer (Steven Soderbergh), and their recent foray into tackling complicated documentation based topics in The Laundromat, you might even imagine that the tone of this piece is something akin to The Big Short, just to get this dense topic into an entertaining form.
But The Report doesn’t play with its subject matter, nor its tone. It is a seriously minded piece, and it’s anchored in serious performances. Benning is spectacular Feinstein, conveying a determined strength and the never wavering belief in the power of the judiciary. Driver, too, is great as Jones; oscillating between feverish excitement for his work, horror at the atrocities committed, fear of the seemingly limitless power of the CIA to crush him, and determined passion for the publication of his work. Driver strides all over this material, leaving us hanging on his every word.
Burns, while maintaining that serious tone, also adds in elements of humour throughout, punctuating this story like rays of sunshine in dense cloud cover. In particular, he has a lot of fun with the size of this report; from jokes about its size, to one trailer-featuring shot of Driver seated between two neverending piles of paper.
The film is fundamentally dense. For those uninterested, or uninitiated, it may well prove too much, despite the work of the filmmakers here. And further, the torture scenes that punctuate what is in effect a office focused, DC-based film, can be extremely uncomfortable viewing. But the passion for the story and the dedication to ensuring that these atrocities don’t happen again is on display in every frame of this feature. For those willing to brave it, they’re unlikely to be left wanting.
The Report isn’t necessarily easy viewing, with dense subject matter and occassional torture scenes, but the performances and filmmaking expertise on display here make a complicated topic intriguing and compelling viewing.