Starring: Adam Driver, Annette Bening, Ted Levine
Director: Scott Z. Burns
Running Time: 120 mins
The Report is an American film about Senate staffer Daniel J. Jones, who, tasked with drawing up a report on the CIA’s conduct in interrogations in the years after 9/11, uncovers a series of shocking secrets.
Docudramas – as they are sometimes known – have a tendency to be historically and factually riveting pieces, but far from the most cinematic or emotional films you’ll ever come across. The Report does suffer at times from this common trait, but ultimately, after a messy start and some botched characterisation, it turns into a really slick, intriguing and even emotional affair.
There’s a lot to The Report, but one thing that you really can’t deny about it is the depth and intensity with which it delivers its factual history. There are of course elements of the story that are either cut or overdramatised for cinematic effect (some a bit too much so), but The Report generally feels like a very assured, intelligent news drama with a lot to say.
The conduct of the US government in the aftermath of 9/11 is something that continues to create huge debate to this day, and that’s not including what went on behind closed doors. Building on the true story of a breaking news story that unfolded over the last decade, The Report boasts an incredible depth of information to learn and better understand the events, and it does a fantastic job at providing an informative and ultimately enthralling watch.
Saying that, the film doesn’t get off to the best of starts. At first, The Report tries to establish a collection of different time periods that play a significant role in the story, but for some reason attempts it in a confusing, non-chronological manner.
That would be fine if there were a clear emotional or narrative reason for the way things start off, but for the first twenty or thirty minutes, it’s really rather hard to follow when certain events are occurring (even as the film tries with different colour grading for different time periods), as well as who certain individuals are and what exact role they play in the story. It’s a frustrating start that unfortunately weakens what is a very strong film from a historical perspective.
Fortunately, things do begin to pick up as the film streamlines itself between the events directly after 9/11, and the efforts of Daniel Jones in the late 2000s in drawing up the report. The structure is clearer and easier to follow, and the first moments of emotional resonance begin to hit home as you see first-hand some of the devastating torture techniques used to no avail by the intelligence services.
From then on, the film really begins to improve, and once focus shifts entirely onto the publication of the report in the late 2000s/early 2010s, it develops a strong political and emotional core, focusing on the ever-determined Jones as he strives for justice and for the publication of the report, despite the intense security and differing personal interests that stand in his way.
As a result, the movie evolves into something more akin to a whistleblower drama than a pure political one, and as Adam Driver’s performance turns from competent and driven worker into a deeply frustrated individual, the significance and unfortunate reality of the efforts to stop his report being published become clear.
Couple that with an expert turn from Annette Bening as Senator Feinstein, who led efforts to publish the report, and you have a film that eventually features some astonishing political insight and emotional depth. It may take a while to get there, but in the end, The Report is a film that really manages to get under your skin, showing just how far those in power can and will go even against the course of justice.
Overall, I really liked The Report. Despite a messy and confusing start, it’s a film with a whole lot to say, and once it doubles down on a more focused story, its wealth of information and riveting historical and political depth come out in heaps. With strong performances and brilliant emotional drama in the latter stages, The Report hits home with its own political messages, and does so in absolutely enthralling fashion, which is why I’m giving it a 7.9.