Sunday 16 April 2023

Movie Review: The Report (2019)

Genre: Drama
Director: Scott Z. Burns
Starring: Adam Driver, Annette Bening, Jon Hamm
Running Time: 119 minutes

Synopsis: In 2009, U.S. Senator Diane Feinstein (Annette Bening) learns that the CIA destroyed interrogation tapes of detainees held after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. She launches an investigation headed by staffer David Jones (Adam Driver) to research millions of related CIA documents. He uncovers the CIA's program of "enhanced interrogation techniques" (ie torture) used at secret detention sites. The report takes years to compile and grows to thousands of pages, as the CIA mobilizes to defend its actions.

What Works Well: Based on actual events, writer and director Scott Z. Burns captures the dogged efforts of one senator and one staffer to expose dirty intelligence secrets. Adam Driver conveys David's escalating rage as the work consumes his life, while Annette Bening excels at portraying a veteran politician keeping her researcher on an even keel. Haunting flashbacks recreate the brutal and useless torture of detainees, while numerous Washington DC agencies, officials, politicians, and administrations provide a backdrop of intrigue. Jon Hamm, Maura Tierney, Tim Blake Nelson, and Ted Levine enrich the cast.

What Does Not Work As Well: The cinematography chokes on diffused sickly yellows as a visual metaphor of torture contaminating national identity, resulting in a grinding cinematic mood. None of the characters have a life outside the central report investigation, and the final act, devoted to arguments about releasing the report, is properly bogged down in political minutiae.

Conclusion: A respectful but ultimately uninspired documentation of counterproductive actions limply justified in the name of national security.

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