In The Report (2019), screenwriter/director Scott Z. Burns delivers a meticulous investigation of CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques which dated back to George Bush’s presidency. The protagonist of his story is Daniel Jones (Adam Driver), an idealist white knight, who pursues the truth at all costs.
The need for public trust and transparency in America is unprecedented. It’s rooted in the country’s understanding of democracy, however it also poses a grave danger to the state. That’s, at least, the line of defense that many of the high-profile politicians utilize in The Report (2019). Because most of them prefers the cover-up justified as the smaller evil.
Yet before Burns brings the matter to the upper ladder, he observes how a pawn in the game loses himself in the complicated maze of bureaucracy. This pawn is Daniel Jones. Jones is hired by the Senate to investigate the questionable methods of interrogations, which were implemented as a drastic means against the rising threat of terrorism. To set you on the timeline, the events described in The Report (2019) take place soon after 9/11 – the day which changed the country forever.
In this difficult time, a hasty, even an unhinged decision, was an easy mistake to make. At some point of the film, George Bush himself admits that the enhanced interrogation method was never even mentioned to him. Believe it or not, but Burns, a skilled writer and a less skilled director, wants to drill the surface and find the source of this convoluted scheme. How was it possible that American agents were authorized to perform the infamous tactics of waterboarding? Who gave the permission?
Scott Z. Burns operates in a labyrinth of data
We learn the answers through flashbacks, pinned to people present in the whole map of the issue. That’s how Jones navigates through the entire film too; he’s a lone sailor on his icebreaker ship, who literally drowns under the pile of names, codes, events and e-mails.
To be fair, only the most focused viewers will keep track of what he manages do achieve. While Burns has a tremendous way of writing dialogue and putting the pieces of the puzzle together, he’s by no means a visual storyteller. In that regard, The Report (2019) feels hectic and confined, but not only due to the unwelcoming interiors of offices and governmental institutions, which all remind of Orwell’s Year 1984. The real problem is that Burns provides little space to breathe. At some point, the resulting frustration grows similarly to what I felt during Vice (2018), Adam McKay’s frantic depiction of Dick Cheney (who was, by the way, close to the events presented in The Report (2019) too).
Burns’ steady but hasty direction causes troubles for the cast as well. Adam Driver puts on a determined face, and relentlessly seeks justice and truth, but his feverish character notes an insubstantial growth, from a devoted idealist to a devoted idealist who has trouble sleeping due to his workaholism. In spite of the way that Burns sees him as a conductor of facts – rather than someone with actual, human feelings – Driver still manages to imbue this soulless character with a degree of likable traits.
Driver’s not the show-stealer in The Report (2019); Bening and Hamm are
More meaty roles belong to Annette Bening and Jon Hamm. The actress takes on the role of Senator Dianne Feinstein, who backs up Jones’ efforts. Bening gives Feinstein what Driver misses the most – a reason to believe her. She’s got her career at stake, however her moral backbone remains loyal to Jones. Hamm, on the other hand, capably pulls off a role that is close to a devil in human skin – a charming chit-chatter who played the game long before Jones was there.
Frankly, what hurts The Report (2019) as a drama, benefits The Report (2019) as a political thriller. Burns connects the dots with dashing speed, but by jumping from point to point, he exposes the grandeur of this pyramid of lies. He’s got a deep understanding of what the Detention and Interrogation Program has led to – an escalation of violence, a worrying abuse of power and a Machiavellian rule that should have never found its way into a democratic system.
In the light of Trump’s closing to an impeachment, and a general decrease in the trust for the public services on a global scale, The Report (2019) has a dramatic message to convey. If we let one bad thing slide, more will follow. Whether it should be up to filmmakers to expose the truth, or should it be the system with a more tight-knit colander, I would lean towards the latter. But the reality is different, and it’s gratifying to count on the truth-seekers like Burns.
The Report (2019) – Culturally Hated or Loved?
Scott Z. Burns’s The Report (2019) has troubles with amassing the emotional capital, however its articulate script and incredibly meticulous investigation that backs it up, together surpass the remaining flaws.
The Report (2019)
Dir. Scott Z. Burns
Hate Grade: 3.5/10