3.5 out of 5 stars.
“The Report” is the rare movie based on a true stories that doesn’t focus on bending facts to fit a more entertaining narrative; in fact, it frequently does just the opposite. Written and directed by Scott Z. Burns, the film tells the story of an investigation led by Senate staffer Daniel J. Jones (Adam Driver) and the Senate Intelligence Committee looking into the CIA’s use of torture following the 9/11 attacks. Working in a windowless basement with a small team over the course of five years, reporting to Senator Dianne Feinstein (Annette Bening), the investigation consumes Jones’ life and career as he fights to get the report released, the CIA fighting him all the while.
The final report consisted of over 7,000 pages, and sometimes it feels like Burns is trying to cram as much of it into his two hour film as possible. “The Report” jumps around in time often, to the point where it can be hard to keep up, as it spans the length of almost 15 years and portrays everything from meetings between CIA officials and scenes of torture and interrogation carried out at black sites. This lack of structure does benefit the film in the long run, however, as it paints a picture of the severity of the issue that Jones is investigating for the viewer. A lot of information is thrown at the viewer, and quickly; this film is very talky, with words rather than actions frequently propelling the story forward. But it’s nothing if not informative, and there’s always a sense of tension that lends itself well to the film, which could be classified as a political thriller in some respects.
Some of this is thanks in part to the pounding score by David Wingo, but a lot of it is thanks to the performances by the film’s cast. Driver demands attention with his performance as the dedicated Jones. The film presents its character and story in a way that could leave the audience feel cold, but Burns nicely demonstrates Jones’ idealism during his first trip to Washington, D.C. right out of school. As he waits for a meeting with Jon Hamm’s Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, he plays with a snow globe of the nation’s capital. When he approaches the capital building at the start of the film, he stops to stare at it and snap a photo. When he leaves at the end of the film, he walks away and doesn’t look back, the corruption he’s witnessed the last several years obviously having taken its toll.
Bening is the standout member of the supporting cast (which also includes Jennifer Morrison as CIA attorney Caroline Krass and Matthew Rhys as the New York Times reporter Jones occasionally meets with) and also has a great moment at the end of the film. But Driver carries the film; it’s because he cares so vehemently that the audience cares too. The film ends on both a sense of hopefulness and hopelessness. It’s an unexpectedly timely movie that proves that even the most powerful can and should have their authority checked—but it also proves that some bad deeds go unpunished.
Runtime: 119 minutes. Rated R.