“The Report” (2019) starring Adam Driver, Annette Bening, & Jon Hamm

The Report is a thriller based on actual events. Idealistic staffer Daniel J. Jones (Adam Driver) is tasked by his boss Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Annette Bening) to lead an investigation of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program created in the aftermath of 9/11. Jones’ relentless pursuit of the truth leads to findings that uncover the lengths to which the nation’s top intelligence agency went to destroy evidence, subvert the law, and hide a shocking secret from the American public. The Report is written and directed by Scott Z. Burns, and the film also stars Jon Hamm, Sarah Goldberg, Michael C. Hall, Douglas Hodge, Fajer Kaisi, Ted Levine, Jennifer Morrison, Tim Blake Nelson, Linda Powell, Matthew Rhys, T. Ryder Smith, Corey Stoll, and Maura Tierney. -Synopsis (Amazon)

This movie (acquired by Amazon Studios) is available for free on Amazon Prime; I saw it 2x (to get a better understanding on the issues). If you follow the news/current events, have an interest in politics, and/or enjoyed The West Wing– check this movie out. This has more of a documentary-style approach, so I wouldn’t call it a typical “thriller” (as classified on IMDb). Just before filming, the original plan of 50 days shooting was cut to a 26 days; the $18 million budget was slashed to ONLY $8 million! Burns revealed that ALL the actors (incl. Driver) were paid next to nothing on this project. Burns originally planned to approach the material in a satirical Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) manner; the more he delved into the facts, he realized it had told in the most realistic fashion. The film premiered at Sundance and received a standing ovation for the real Dan Jones (who was present).

Sen. Feinstein: If it [waterboarding] works, why do you need to do it 183 times?

After completing the screenplay, Burns shared it w/ frequent collaborator, Steven Soderbergh, w/ a view as to who he’d suggest for the lead. Driver’s name came up almost immediately; Soderbergh directed Driver in Logan Lucky (2017). In 2007, Dan comes to Capitol Hill as an idealistic young man (wanting to help his country); we learn that he was a Math teacher in Baltimore w/ Teach for America (3 yrs). After 9/11, he switched his classes to national security while at grad school (Harvard). Dan gets a job working for Sen. Feinstein (D-CA), head of the Senate Intelligence Committee. He ended up working on the torture report for 5+ yrs- wow! Jones was available to provide feedback on set; Driver found this very helpful.

Gretchen (CIA Agent): You may not realize, but we were trying to protect this country from people who wanna destroy everything we believe in.

Dan: You may not realize it, but we are trying to do the exact same thing.

The term “enhanced interrogation” has no meaning under law; the tactics aren’t used by professional interrogators. It was created by the CIA to describe tactics that would otherwise be considered torture or unlawful detainee abuse. The science finds that rapport-based approaches to interrogation are the most effective, as FBI Agent, Ali Soufan (Fajer Kaisi), tells Dan when they meet in NYC. Soufan’s flashback was eye-opening and troubling. I’m now curious to see The Looming Tower, a HBO miniseries (w/ Jeff Daniels and French-Algerian actor, Tahar Rahim, as Soufan) which focuses on the FBI’s response to 9/11. The physician assistant, Raymond Nathan (Tim Blake Nelson), who came to oppose EIT, meets w/ Dan late at night in a parking garage (reminiscent of Deep Throat in All the President’s Men). The psychologists, James Mitchell (Douglas Hodge) and Bruce Jessen (T. Ryder Smith) were put in charge of not only creating and implementing the EIT program, but also evaluating its effectiveness. This is (obviously) a conflict of interest, as Dan explains to Feinstein in the 2nd hr. of the movie.

Evan (NYT Reporter): If the Times had your report, we would print it, tomorrow.

Dan: No. If it’s gonna come out, it’s gonna come out the right way.

I live just outside DC, so got a kick out of seeing Driver running past the national monuments. Then there are the (relatable) boring office buildings, basement rooms, and working on computers- LOL. Driver has a scene w/ his wife, Joanne Tucker (who he met while they were students at Julliard)! Tucker plays Gretchen (blonde CIA Agent working under the mysterious Bernadette, played by Maura Tierney); she confronts Dan and his colleague in the restaurant scene. Matthew Rhys plays Evan (the NYT national security reporter); he’s a friend of Driver who acted w/ him off-Broadway and appeared on HBO’s Girls. Corey Stoll (who also appeared on Girls) plays a lawyer, Cyrus Clifford, who Dan consults w/ after the CIA goes after him. Driver and Stoll played brothers in the comedy movie This is Where I Leave You (2014).

[1] The late Sen. John McCain gets the last word here, appropriately, with archive footage of his impassioned speech on the Senate floor regarding the necessity of forbidding the U.S. from engaging in torture, regardless of what the country’s enemies do.

[2] The cuts in time work well to put meat on the bones and helps to mix the political, ethical, and real life aspects of it. […]

It is more important than engaging though, and could have been a stronger film for embracing the complexity more than it did.

-Excerpts from IMDb reviews

Official trailer for The Report.
The director and actors talk re: The Report at Sundance Film Festival with Variety magazine.

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