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The Report (A Movie Review)

Updated: Feb 18, 2020

The Report


Starring Adam Driver, Annette Bening, Corey Stoll, Jon Hamm, Linda Powell, John Rothman, Joanne Tucker, Maura Tierney, Michael C. Hall, Ian Blackman, Dominic Fumusa, Fajer Kaisi, Zuhdi Boueri, Douglas Hodge, T. Ryder Smith, Carlos Gomez, Ted Levine, Tim Blake Nelson, Ratnesh Dubey, Scott Shepherd, Caroline Krass, Matthew Rhys, Kate Beahan and James Hindman.

Screenplay by Scott Z. Burns.

Directed by Scott Z. Burns.

Distributed by Amazon Studios. 119 minutes. Rated R.

Screened at the 2019 Philadelphia Film Festival.

I started writing this review the day after watching The Report at the 28th Philadelphia International Film festival. I spent that day, shook, intermittently searching the internet for facts about the soon-to-be-released docudrama starring Adam Driver as FBI agent Daniel J. Jones, who in real life led the Senate tasked internal investigation of the CIA’s detention and interrogation program after 9/11.

For me, there is an inherent danger in the docudrama genre – determining what is real and what has been dramatized to make the film more entertaining. I suspect that I am not alone realizing that my memories/details from the finally released to the news in 2015 summarized report are fuzzy at best. Key words are indelible – water boarding, torture, Guantanamo Bay – but little else.

The Report tells the story of a bleak period in America’s history. A story that was swept under the rug for as long as it could be. A story so potentially damaging that CIA officers breached a SCIF to hack into a computer to try to steal evidence that would stop the internal investigation. A story of human rights violations performed blindly with the promise that the effort would thwart future terrorist attacks.

The Report reminds us that the end does not solely justify the means, particularly when those means are not grounded in actual fact.

In 2009, Senator Dianne Feinstein (played by Annette Bening), put together a three-and-three bipartisan team, led by Agent Jones to investigate the CIA and it’s adopted “enhanced interrogation techniques” (or EIT) program after learning that tapes had been destroyed of the interrogations of Al Qaeda detainees. Jones (whose team eventually dwindled down to one fellow staffer) worked sometimes seven days a week scouring through six million plus documents to create a more than 7000-page report, which nearly never saw the light of day.

The star-studded cast includes Jon Hamm as White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, who gives Jones some career advice at the early part of his career and re-enters the story at the start of the second term of Obama’s administration. He is a career political staffer, guided only by poll numbers.

Maura Tierney is CIA Agent “Bernadette,” who represents the CIA giving the greenlight the EIT program and monitoring progress throughout its employment. She represents the chaos and need for results that allowed our government to be swayed by contractors.

Those contractors were former Air Force psychologists James Mitchell (played by Douglas Hodge) and Bruce Jessen (played by T. Ryder Smith), the creators of the EIT program – an $80 million program that was never proven in any way to elicit any information. Mitchell and Jessen are portrayed as monsters, greasy salesmen in health-professional clothing, peddling a program to achieve learned helplessness in detainees. Through torture. Repeat torture. Water boarding, rectal rehydration, amongst others – with little to no evidence that any of the methods were effective. Performed on 119 total detainees, a quarter of which should never have even been detained.

The Report tells a compelling story that is believably unbelievable, foreshadowing so much of the discourse we see in our government today. It is tense, visually disturbing at times, and informative.

Regardless of the 2020 election results, it is just a matter of time before our current administration will become a docudrama of its own making. With hope, there are more people in our country like Daniel Jones, committed to investigating and documenting the facts, without bias, to tell our story correctly.

Bonnie Paul

Copyright ©2019 All rights reserved. Posted: October 24, 2019.

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