Cinema Review: The Report | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Monday, September 21st, 2020  

The Report

Studio: Amazon Studios
Direct by Scott Z. Burns

Nov 18, 2019 Web Exclusive
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The CIA’s post-9/11 torture program had run concurrently with the Bush administration for about 7 years. Though the CIA often acted unilaterally, top administration officials learning the truth about the program exhibited little haste in shutting it down. In 2008, however, hope arrived in the form of Barack Obama whose promise of sweeping change ostensibly included a new approach to the war on terror while acknowledging past errors.

Enter Daniel Jones (Adam Driver), a true blue American who finds himself tasked with compiling all information related to the program. This proves a gargantuan task: the titular report took nearly 3 years, totalled nearly 7000 pages, and zero hours of sleep. With Democrats in control of The White House and Congress, releasing the report should be easy peasy. But Mr. Jones would be mistaken.

The Report is two movies, neither of them very good. The first chronicles a Woodward and Bernstein-like pursuit of the truth, which is important and good, except Woodward and Bernstein faced actual obstacles in their pursuit. With few exceptions, Jones has few adversarial forces working against him in the actual compilation of the report--we hear he has no life due to the hours, but his obsession lacks the dramatization of, say, a Zodiac or JFK which show the cost of obsession. The result is layers and layers of exposition, some uncomfortable flashbacks, and a cast of staffers whose main purpose seems to be to listen to Jones deliver this exposition.

That takes nearly an hour.

The second hour deals with Jones and the person charged with heading the report, Congresswoman Dianne Feinstein (Annette Benning), maneuvering the tricky political implications of releasing the report. This creates tension within the Democratic ranks, pitting selfish agendas, differing political beliefs, and idealism against one another, and provides the film with its most interesting and thematic elements, but the stakes are never clearly drawn out here. A good comparison here is Lincoln, which reduced the passage of the 14th amendment of the constitution to an almost sports match, a framing device that demonstrates clear gains and reversals. Here, things happen but there’s never a real sense of progression or regression: it always seems to be more of a question of “will they, or won’t they?” The politics of this film are noble, if not pious, but the script desperately needed a cleanup.

Author rating: 4.5/10

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