THE REPORT (2019)
Adam Driver, Annette Bening, Jon Hamm, Ted Levine, Maura Tierney, Michael C. Hall, Jennifer Morrison, Matthew Rhys, Tim Blake Nelson, Corey Stoll, Benjamin McKenzie
Directed by Scott Z. Burns
Waterboarding has been around since the 14th Century as a method of torture. It has been used by the United States post-9/11 by the military and CIA but in 2006 the practice was banned by the Bush administration. Well almost. The CIA was exempt from the ban which led to an investigation under Senator Diane Feinstein, played here by Annette Bening, spearheaded by Daniel J. Jones represented by Adam Driver. “The Report” is a political thriller based on the true events written and directed by Scott Z. Burns that follows the tradition of “All the President’s Men,” “Three Days of the Condor” and “The Parallax View.”
Call it a sign of the times, but had this film been released years earlier it would have felt scandalous but in today’s political climate of government coverups it seems routine. On the other hand, the term “whistleblower” has been in the news so much lately that Burns’ film feels like it’s been ripped from recent headlines even though the events took place a decade ago.
When The New York Times publishes a story about the CIA destroying interrogation videotapes of Al-Qaeda detainees, Senator Feinstein instructs Senate investigator Daniel Jones to launch a probe of the Agency’s “enhanced interrogation techniques” to find out what was on those tapes. After spending over five years combing through millions of documents and talking to various people involved, Jones delivered a 6,700-page report with 38,000 footnotes.
Like Redford and Hoffman in “All the President’s Men,” we watch as Driver and Bening do a terrific job of portraying the real-life heroes who worked diligently to uncover the truth behind the illegal activities by factions of our government. Costume designer Susan Lyall does a subtle job of recreating the look during the Obama era which meant suits with broader shoulders and pleated pants for Driver and that iconic purple blazer worn by Feinstein on the Senate floor as she tried to invoke bipartisanship by wearing a color which was a mixture of Republican Red and Democrat Blue.
Driver and Bening are the film’s biggest assets but the supporting cast is made up of heavyweights that include Jon Hamm as Denis McDonough, the former White House Chief of Staff under President Obama, Ted Levine as John Brennan, the CIA director from 2013-2017, and Tim Blake Nelson as Raymond Nathan the whistleblower who becomes the film’s Deep Throat.
Burns is responsible for writing “The Bourne Ultimatum,” as well as various Steven Soderbergh films (“The Informant!,” “Contagion,” “Side Effects”) including the recent Netflix original “The Laundromat” which he co-wrote with Jake Bernstein. “The Report” suffers from a lack of pizzazz evident in the previously mentioned scripted-films but this is only the second time Burns has jumped behind the camera (he directed the 2006 HBO film “Pu-239”).
There is clearly a lack of tension in “The Report” but the subject matter and the performances by the A-list cast give the film a much-needed boost. Burns is concentrated on hitting us with the facts and that he does. The writer-director also avoids turning this into a political statement with a bipartisan storyline that illustrates the mistakes made by all parties involved.
Opens Friday, November 15 in select theaters and available November 29 on Amazon Prime