The more I think about this film, the more difficult it becomes to review. Writer and Director, Scott Z. Burns, primarily known as the writer of many Steven Soderbergh films, has presented The Report as an entirely didactic, unforgiving and ultimately real look into the behind the scenes work done by former FBI agent and United States Senate investigator Daniel J. Jones. He dedicated most of his career to investigating the use of torture within the CIA, spanning several years in the wake of 9/11. With the potential to be a difficult watch for mainstream audiences, Burns delivers an outstanding script, backed up by great performances, making the two hour run-time absolutely fly by and leaving me wholeheartedly satisfied by the end.
For me, the allure of cinema is that it provides a platform for writers, directors and actors to tell stories, express emotion and create art; but it also allows audience members to feel those emotions in a safe place without consequence to their own personal lives. The Report (2019) is not one of those films, but that doesn’t devalue it, in fact, in today’s climate I believe it is as important as ever. In this day and age, with the access to the Internet that we have, and with social media being a universal language and essentially a database for news, we are more informed about politics than ever before. But this film shows that what we know is still only the tip of the iceberg.
From 2001 – 2014, while the acts of torture themselves and the subsequent investigation were taking place, the U.S. government covered it up entirely. Even when the actual report was finally released, it was nowhere near as widely broadcast as a document like that should have been… strange, because as we know, the American government LOVES admitting when they’ve made mistakes. I for one, being 13 years old and living on the other side of the world, had no clue of what was going on, nor the ramifications it had on how we perceive the government system, the CIA or any other organisation that we trust with our safety and livelihood. Though I have since learned about this particular series of events, it has been off my own back, or by word of mouth; up until seeing this film what I knew barely scratched the surface.
Like I said previously, with the internet as advanced and accessible as it is today, most younger generations are more aware of the world and less trusting of governments in general, American or otherwise. But not many care enough or have to time to research and read hundreds of pages about what is being hidden from us. On the other hand, there are those of older generations, who didn’t have this access, and have since cemented their own opinions, purely from what they have been shown on the news. Now, even when presented with facts, they refuse to change how they think. Especially in America, without generalizing too much, many who are uneducated or who supported the Republican Party, at the time would have labelled it “Fake News”. Unfortunately we now have one of those people leading the country. This is why a film like this is so imperative, because for whatever reason people don’t want to see the truth, even when it affects them. What they might want to see, however, is a mainstream film starring that one guy from Star Wars, and so the whole family goes along for a nice movie night and leaves all the more informed and potentially with changed opinions… hopefully for the better.
Speaking of “that one guy from Star Wars”, Adam Driver, who plays Daniel J. Jones himself, delivers a commanding and engrossing performance that goes a long way to making this film as enjoyable as it was. Though Driver is the main draw, especially for younger viewers, he was backed up by a star-studded ensemble cast; namely Annette Bening, Jon Hamm, Michael C. Hall, Tim Blake Nelson and Corey Stoll. Though none of their roles were as “meaty” as the lead, they each play their part believably, allowing Driver to take the reigns and make the character his own. With other outstanding performances in last year’s BlacKkKlansman as well as Logan Lucky (2017), Paterson (2016) and Silence (2016), Adam Driver is quickly becoming one of my favourite actors currently working. After another strong year with this film, along with lead roles in The Dead Don’t Die, which premiered at BIFF last month and the soon to be released, Netflix produced, Marriage Story, his talent and notoriety appear to be improving exponentially.
Going beyond the facts of the matter, The Report is, at its core, a deeper look at abuse of power, the allure of greed and how, in certain countries at least, selfish and murderous acts are construed as patriotism. Not too mention, though I may sound like a broken record at this stage, that governments will cover up anything in order to preserve their reputation. So even though this film might not be an awards contender, or rake in $100 million at the box office, if it gets the exposure it deserves and helps in educating the young and maybe, just maybe, changing the opinions of the old, then it has done its job well.
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EAMON KINGSTON (@eamon.dane)
Eamon recently graduated from the acting course at New York Film Academy Gold Coast, and has been let loose into the big wide world to find his way in the confusing maze that is the film industry. In his Eamon’s words “I have a passion for film, obviously, but also music, art and football (soccer, because this is Australia). I look forward to giving you my thoughts on all the latest films, and I hope you enjoy what I have to offer.” Keep up to date with Eamon on Instagram and on Letterboxd.com.