Review: 'The Report' contains vital information on the page, if not the screen
"The Report" has a lot to say about an important subject, but it gets lost in the proverbial stack of exposition and explanation.
Some movies say something, and others have something to say. The difference might seem like semantics, but these two types of films are worlds apart. "The Report" can be filed as the latter, a film about an important subject that manages to not be an important film.
One of the greatest actors going in Hollywood right now, Adam Driver (don't believe me? Wait for "Marriage Story" in a few weeks) plays real-life Senate staffer Dan Jones, who investigated the CIA's use of torture...er..."enhanced interrogation methods...in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. What he uncovered were brutal, abhorrent and agreeably un-American methods - committed by CIA operatives without direct permission from higher-ups - of extracting information from al-Qaeda hostages. These methods proved to be mostly ineffective, and much worse, immoral, by all accounts and by all measures of agreed-upon international wartime procedures.
The actual Jones report was nearly 7,000 pages, but writer/director Scott Z. Burns must have seen something buried in there that warranted a cinematic retelling. But what he creates is ultimately an effort in futility. Characters talk in long stretches of exposition, or they hammer home overlying themes. In other words, the people in this story don't act or speak like people at all, they just exist as a function for this film to get its message out.
Of course the "spin" is almost as important as the report itself, and we see efforts from all sides to have the data fit the narrative. This obviously strikes some familiar chords with the modern world in which we live in today, where the search for "the truth" is at a premium and seems to be less and less important to those in power. But this detective story just doesn't effectively create drama, a "thriller" devoid of any thrills.
These are good actors at work here though, namely Driver, but also Annette Bening as Senator Diane Feinstein, who was Jones's boss during the time.
The Jones Report is vitally important, but sadly, "The Report" is not.
Genre: Drama, Thriller.
Run Time: 1 hour 59 minutes.
Starring: Adam Driver, Jon Hamm, Linda Powell, Annette Bening, Corey Stoll.
Written and Directed by Scott Z. Burns ("Pu-239").
"The Report" opens theatrically on Friday, November 15th, 2019.
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