'The Report' Film Review

'The Report' Film Review

Adam Driver leads Scott Z. Burns' fascinating and well-crafted political thriller.

Photo Credit: Atsushi Nishijima

So for those of you who checked out my review of the Gavin Hood espionage drama, 'Official Secrets,' you may remember that I brought up a film called 'The Report' at the end of the article. Specifically, I was curious to know which of the Sundance political intrigue dramas would be able to tackle their subject matter more efficiently, and whether the two films would have distinctive enough takes on their source material to stand out.

Admittedly, this was a bit of a mistake trying to judge the two together, but if nothing else, it allowed me to keep 'The Report' in the back of my mind in the midst of a seemingly never-ending stream of Awards Season films.

More than its source material prestige, I was also interested by the choice of Scott Z. Burn to tackle the story. Burns is best known for his work with Steven Soderbergh on films like 'Contagion,' 'The Informant,' and this year's 'The Laundromat,' as well as one of the writers for the upcoming James Bond film, 'No Time to Die.'

Even as someone who hasn't explored as much of Soderbergh's filmography as I really should (I could fill a whole list with those kinds of filmmakers), I was interested to see what Burns could do in one of his first feature-length films as a director, and taking on a story that, from all accounts, seemed to be gravitating towards the work's writers like Aaron Sorkin and Oliver Stone.

So what do we get with 'The Report?' Well it's a political drama like you may expect, filled up with loads of political jargon, guys in suits loaded with red-tape, and a message about searching for the truth even in the midst of human complexity and miscommunication. But what 'The Report' has going for is a masterfully crafted script, brought to life by a dedicated cast, and a sense of drive to its central narrative that knows exactly what beats it needs to hit to keep its momentum. It doesn't hit every goal it sets out for, but the results of this kind of ambition really impressed me.

In 2009, Senator Dianne Feinstein (played by Annette Benning) recruits Senate staff member Daniel Jones (played by Adam Driver) to lead an investigation into the use of "enhanced interrogation techniques" used by the CIA in the aftermath of 9/11. Jones and his team search through millions of documents over the next few years, finding misplaced details and terminology that seem to suggest that the CIA has misrepresented their methods that would otherwise be called torture.

Jones and his ever-dwindling team put together an almost 7,000 page report to present to the Senate, only for forces within the government to pressure the analyst and the senator not to publish their findings. There are also periodic flashbacks that reveal the setup of the program by C.I.A. director John Brennan (played by Ted Levine) and consultants Dr. James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen (played by Douglas Hodge and T. Ryder Smith respectively).

If you're the kind of moviegoer attracted to true-life stories brought together through scenes of people talking in rooms, do I have a movie for you! Scott Z. Burns' screenplay takes the years of research and bureaucratic discourse and condenses it down into quick, concise, and fascinating dialogue for our characters. The movie does feel overcrowded, as I'll bring up in a minute, but the script and the film's editor, Greg O'Bryant's, unsung work do wonders in giving so much material the sense of urgency to keep an audience involved.

The other side of the screenplay is that it doesn't try to play to any one side. If for whatever reason political dramas based on true events drive you away because of a supposed bias, 'The Report' isn't free of bias, but it does do a surprising job in attempting to fairly depict the facts, with just as many jabs at one presidential administration as another given the time frame. I wondered as the film went on "how could the American people possibly let this happen so recently?" Yet as the movie goes on, you realize where a lot of that deep-seeded fear is coming from, and Scott Z. Burns is bringing us on a pretty thorough examination on where those fears can take us.

In many ways, the comparisons you might have heard to films like 'All the Presidents Men' and 'Spotlight' aren't too far off, and a lot of that comparison has to do with the films central characters in relation to the story Adam Driver has always been a bit of an acting chameleon, and he plays Daniel Jones with a very silent sense of moral drive that is fantastically utilized.

I also don't think Annette Benning is getting enough credit for this movie. She very much acts as Driver's woman-on-the-inside (though she is explicitly the leader of the committee on the report) and she always acts as a nice contrast to Driver's in-depth explanations. Word apparently spread quickly about this movie, and thus we have a pretty stacked supporting cast, and you can't go more than a few minutes without a new piece of the puzzle personifying themselves.

Structurally, 'The Report' relies not just on its main storyline, but also on flashbacks (complete with new a color pallet) to reveal some of the darker origins of the EIT program. While I appreciate the direction of these scenes (the waterboarding scenes, in particular, are pretty brutal), they do often feel like sharp turns to the journey the film is going for. That may be solely because I was so thoroughly invested in Daniel's journey, but I did feel as though those scenes could have been paced out better so as not to feel jarring.

There's also that idea I keep bringing it back to which is that this film feels like a long read. It's a lot of interpersonal dialogue about national security and political discourse, stitched together with a lot of people looking at monitors and paper stacks. While I was thoroughly invested in that end goal of the story, I can see a lot of people walking away from this thinking it's rather boring.

Compared to the aforementioned 'Official Secrets,' I did think of an interesting question: do films with stories as important as these deserve protagonists that fight for themselves or for their ideas? Admittedly, Daniel's moral code is similar to Keira Knightley's Katherine Gun, but Daniel is in a film that rarely treats him as his own man.

He's always told to discard emotional attachment and, because of that, his character feels just as much a cog in this story as any of the others. That's not a bash on the film, but it's something to keep in mind if you're looking for an empathetic lead for a story revolving around the morality of wartime torture.

At the end of the day, 'The Report' satisfied a lot of what I hoped it would. Its length shows pretty explicitly and it doesn't do the greatest of jobs with fully realizing its characters, but for what we're given, I thought it was the real deal. Another picture of a time period I, and many others, couldn't see the full picture of until years afterwards, and realizing that picture through consistent dialogue and a cast that brings a true sense of commitment to the material.

It won't be for everyone, and I don't know how much it'll be in the public eye as we spiral further into awards season, but if you're at all into strongly written political thrillers and don't mind going a bit broad with the structure, I can say this is one to check out.

Overall, I give "The Report" 8/10


Want to follow me on social media? Follow me on Twitter and IG @TheMovieKing45

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

While parts of the U.S. are beginning to re-open after months in quarantine, the future of date nights at home is still bright — because, let's face it, wearing masks to a fancy restaurant with your boo in the coming months just doesn't sound fun.

So, if you're looking to have a little romantic fun indoors, we've got just the games for you. Click through the slideshow below for 11 couples games that'll help you two become closer than ever.

Keep Reading... Show less

I've always been interested in any product that can get me the Jennifer Lopez-esque natural glow. I'm Indian and have medium-toned skin, so getting darker was never really the goal. Rather, I've always looked for a product that would even out my skin tone and cellulite, basically making my legs look Photoshopped.

Now more than ever we're craving that healthy, tan glow most of us only get after spending a week poolside with margarita in hand. We may not be spending an SPF-soaked summer hitting on our local lifeguards. But when we're going on socially-distanced walks outside, taking viral-worthy selfies, or just want to test out the best self-tanners for when you do finally get to show off all the bikinis you binge-purchased through your quarantine boredom, these are the best to ways to glow up, no matter your shade of skin, whether you have uber-sensitive eczema-ridden skin, or just want J-Lo glow, smooth legs.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

Quarantine Checkup Week 10: It's Officially Summer, Even In Quarantine

An Odyssey panel discussion about all things quarantine.

Thanks to coronavirus (COVID-19), most of the United States has gone into its own version of quarantine. While no one loves this new way of life we're adjusting to, it's the necessity that will eventually help us fling open our front doors and frolic freely once again!

Premature thinking? Maybe. But while we're in the midst of this quarantine time, we're chatting about the most terrifying, the funniest, and the weirdest thing that quarantine has forced us into recently.

Keep Reading... Show less

13 Father's Day Shirts Under $30 To Gift The Dad Wearing The Same Two Every Day In Quarantine

You've been begging him to change it up, and now he won't have a choice.

Let's be honest: most of our dads are wearing the same shirts today that they probably wore while changing our diapers and holding our hands as we learned to walk. Sure, we love them for it. But whether you're quarantined with him wearing the same two shirts on rotation every week, or every time you FaceTime him, you know what he'll be wearing before he answers the phone, he needs to add some new items to his wardrobe rotation.

And you know dads — they'll feel guilted into using practically anything you were to give them. But these shirts are sure-fire ways to get him to switch up his wardrobe, and he'll be more than excited to wear each and every one of them. Plus, most of them are under twenty dollars, so no harm in dropping more than a couple in to your cart and letting Dad have his pick of his favorites.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

I Sat Down (Virtually) With Hollis Tuttle To Talk About Coronavirus's Impact On The Wellness Industry

Just because coronavirus has greatly impacted the wellness industry doesn't mean wellness stops.

If you're anything like me, your weekly fitness classes are a huge part of your routine. They keep me fit, healthy, and sane. Honestly, these classes help my mental health stay in tip-top shape just as much as they help my physical health.

Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, gyms and fitness studios are facing temporary closure. Yes, this means my personal routine is thrown a curveball, but this also means the wellness industry is one of many that is looking at unemployment and hardship. Do I miss my Monday spin class? Of course. But do the wellness professionals whose worlds were flipped upside down have a lot more to overcome than a slight change of routine? Absolutely. Thankfully, if anyone can prove the ultimate flexibility, it's the wellness industry.

Keep Reading... Show less

My Boyfriend Has Changed Since Quarantine Began, And I Don't Know What To Do

"All he says is 'I love you,' which is great and all but OMG I can't get anything else out of him."

Each week Swoonie B will give her advice on anonymous topics submitted by readers. Want to Ask Swoonie B something related to dating and relationships? Fill out this form here — it's anonymous.

Dear Swoonie B,

My boyfriend and I have been dating for almost a year, which has been the best year of my life (as far as i know). Well we go to different schools and are both very involved in sports and school activities which makes it hard to see each other. During this quarantine it is especially hard. Since we haven't seen each other in over a week things are kind of tense. He won't really talk to me much and I always check in on him to make sure he is doing well and to just see how he is, ya know being a girlfriend. Well apparently that is driving him crazy and I don't understand how. I'm not being controling or clingy, i'm just checking in on him. While this is happening, I also have noticed how he just doesn't really care anymore. I'll leave him paragraphs of sweet love letters to wake up to and I encourage him throughout his day but I just don't get it in return. I love him with all of me and I obviously care about him a lot. Also, I've compared how he talked to me before all of this has happened. He was so sweet and caring, texting me a lot and telling me he loves me and just making sure everything is OK but he doesn't do that anymore. All he says is "I love you," which is great and all but OMG I can't get anything else out of him. He is a little stressed at home with trying to find another job to pay for his car, constantly having to do things for his mom, being responsible for his siblings, and managing school. I know thats a lot but im doing a lot too right now and going through a lot of the same stuff he is but It seems to me he just does not care and i don't know what to do. Please help me or give me some advice on what to say, what not to say, what to do, what not to do. Anything at this point will help. Thank you!

If I had a dollar for every time I heard "these are unprecedented times," I'd be rich. But that's because it's true!

Keep Reading... Show less
Tower 28

On paper, Amy Liu appears to be one of the most intimidating women in the beauty business. Not only did she launch her beauty marketing career at legendary Smashbox Cosmetics, she went on to lead luxury, high-end brands like Kate Somerville and Josie Maran — just to name a few.

But sitting down to meet Liu for the first time in an underground New York bar over a year ago felt like meeting a friend I'd known since childhood. As she walked into the bar in a chic red dress, it was impossible not to feel her immediate warm presence. When she talks about her history as an entrepreneur (and truly, at heart, she always was one), you don't get the sense that she's selling you anything, though with her impeccable taste, I'd use anything that had her glowing review attached to it.

Keep Reading... Show less
Facebook Comments