The movie is about “the torture report,” but “The Report” seems a fitting title for a film about redactions. So many redactions.
Even moreso, “The Report” is about emotions when it comes to the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation into the use of torture in interrogating prisoners post-9/11.
Like the fear of CIA staffers under pressure to find those responsible and stop future attacks — the kind of pressure that can make people sign off on interrogation practices like waterboarding and “mock burials” out of desperation.
Like the shame of being exposed for having employed such practices. But that’s balanced by the public’s lack of emotion in this case.
Mistreating suspected terrorists? Go for it, the public seemed to say, whatever it takes to stop another 9/11.
But here’s the thing: Not only was torture the wrong thing to do, but also, it didn’t work.
You want proof that “enhanced interrogation techniques” were a mistake? Read the report, or simply see “The Report.”
See it and you will have to consider the methodical way in which the filmmaker details those torture practices, and the lies and justifications that Republicans and Democrats alike used to defend it.
It’s as if he’s asking: How do you feel now about what happened, and is this the America that you want?
Writer-director Scott Z. Burns, a frequent collaborator with Oscar-winner Steven Soderbergh (a producer on this film), has made a movie that is so sober, and so steadfast in telling an authentic, truthful and bipartisan story, that it’s difficult to not be both impressed and convinced.
Not that this style makes for the most entertaining movie.
“The Report” might seem ripe for a telling that could have made it more of a paranoid thriller, maybe something like the 1975 film “Three Days of the Condor.”
But the film is told with a just-the-facts earnestness that many should appreciate, as if Burns didn’t want to color the truth of this dark episode by inventing characters or fictional subplots for the sake of entertainment value.
Adam Driver is Burns’ vessel for this narrative, to the degree that he doesn’t so much portray a character, or even a man, as much as he plays an ideal: He is The Truth.
He is Daniel Jones, the lead investigator on what will become the largest review of U.S. intelligence-gathering in history. And he only knows one way to do his job: thoroughly, and completely, for years if necessary.
Working in a tiny room with a couple of other staff members, going through more than six million documents, he learns of a program initially described as “Debility, Dependency, Dread” that was led by a pair of psychologists who had never interrogated anyone.
It’s the kind of story you don’t really believe can happen ... until you learn of the lies told to keep it going, and to keep elements of it secret.
Driver is an indefatigable force for justice, propelling the investigation from revelation to revelation, and getting support from his boss, Sen. Dianne Feinstein.
Or as much support as she can offer when the CIA goes into damage-control mode. Their playbook: admit nothing, deny everything and make counter-accusations.
Driver is so watchable as a frustrated public servant who never raises his voice; this is a man, and a movie, that is angry, but which knows it will serve no good to get out of control when you have the truth to rely on.
Annette Bening exemplifies this idea beautifully as Feinstein, not only disappearing into the California senator physically, but also her calm nature that she’s been known for amid chaos of all types in Senate hearings.
This is a thoughtful, strong-minded performance that could easily earn Bening another Oscar nomination.
The cast is solid, with Tulsa’s Tim Blake Nelson joining Jon Hamm, Michael C. Hall, Ted Levine, Maura Tierney and Corey Stoll, among others who wanted to be part of a low-budget drama with high ideals.
For those with questions about how graphic the images of torture are should not worry about anything beyond a couple of waterboarding examples that are brief and a couple of bare bottoms of men.
So, not anything you haven’t seen Jack Bauer showing us in an episode of “24” in the past.
“The Report” doesn’t need to go overboard on shock value. Not when the truth is this shocking.