starring Adam Driver, Annette Bening, Ted Levine, Jon Hamm
written by Scott Z. Burns, based on the article "Rorschach and Awe" by Katherine Eban
directed by Scott Z. Burns
by Walter Chaw The very definition of "nutritious cinema," The Report details the process of writing and the struggles to publish the Senate oversight report on CIA torture tactics during the Bush II administration. The directorial debut of screenwriter Scott Z. Burns, a frequent Steven Soderbergh collaborator, it's dry as a soda cracker and full of the deep shadows of an All The President's Men but without, alas, much of the kineticism. The problem with movies like this is that the key audience for them probably doesn't have a lot to learn from the revelations therein. What remains, then, is a procedural exercise with a known resolution that starts to feel repetitive at the same time it starts to feel depressing. Adam Driver is typically good as Senate analyst Daniel Jones, driven by the events of 9/11 to pursue a career in intelligence. Over the course of five years working as part of a small team for Sen. Diane Feinstein (Annette Bening), he uncovers a narrative within the CIA that torture does not produce good information, that there was precious little oversight over the agency, and that although the Obama presidency abolished "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques," it was deeply interested in keeping Jones's report out of the public eye.
All that to say The Report is handsomely mounted and not without relevance, should the "wrong" person accidentally watch it. There are flashbacks that portray the horror of what we did to people, and there are a lot of monologues about how duplicitous we were in hiding our misdeeds and rewarding the malefactors. The contractor goons fly around in private planes and love Jesus, while the taxpayers, we're told, paid them $80 million to get their rocks off torturing and murdering Muslims, a third of whom--the CIA eventually admitted--shouldn't have been detained in the first place. It's a film for people who don't realize the United States is now fully operating on a dogma of fear of its various shadows. Given the task of delivering pages and pages of information while drawing on whiteboards, pointing at pictures on a wall, and writing notes in various pads, Driver performs a thankless task as well as anyone could. In the end, though, all The Report can really manage to do is narrate the apocalypse. It's too late to matter when what we used to do to people we thought were terrorists, we're doing now to people coming to this country seeking asylum. The Report is just too late.