Ben’s Breakdown | It’s all in “The Report”

It’s some years after 9/11. Obama is President and there are some questions regarding the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program. Along comes Daniel Jones. He’s an up and coming young man who wants to work as an investigator. However, because he’s rather “green” he takes a recommendation and works as a Senatorial Aide for Dianne Feinstein. She gives him a very special assignment. Daniel is to lead an investigation into the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program. However, what he uncovers is beyond shocking, and now he has to balance the world of political procedures against his own idealistic values.

I love a good political drama filled with intrigue. It doesn’t matter what side of the aisle the story is told from. From All The President’s Men to Thirteen Days, strong political dramas, maybe even political thrillers, can not only generate strong conversation, but they can also entertain, and The Report does just that.

This is a very complex story, which stands to reason because there was what appeared to be a very complex situation going on regarding the Detention Program. If there is any weak point to this movie, it would be all in the details. Writer/Director Scott Z. Burns presents a movie that is pretty much 2 hours long but also has to cover a substantial amount of time in terms of the investigation that Daniel Jones headed up. This means the occasional scene where there is a certain amount of info-dump, which did cause a mild sense of frustration for me. As hard as I tried to follow some of the details and the twists this movie took, there several moments where I had to just say in my brain “move along” and hope that I wouldn’t find myself too lost. Luckily the details that did get by me weren’t too integral to the story. Nonetheless, I cannot help but feel that being able to catch all of the missed details would have made the story just that much more enjoyable. In any case, missing those points did not take me out of my movie-watching experience. What also is fascinating about this movie is it pulls back the curtains and shows some of the inner workings of several parts of our US Government, and while I have no desire to be a part of such a machine, I do find it fascinating when given the opportunity to see it for myself. Unfortunately, this movie does not just give us scenes of how the government works. As part of Daniel’s investigation, he learns of some of the torture techniques that were employed whenever a suspected member of a terrorist cell was captured and interrogated. What I saw horrified me, but I believe that was the intent of this movie. There is no question that The Report takes sides on the issue of using various torture methods as a means of getting information out of detainees. I am not saying one way or the other if I support or condemn what went on in those Detention Camps. What I am saying is that the movie deliberately portrayed it in a manner that was meant to horrify the audience, and for me, it succeeded.

 

This movie was acquired by Amazon Studios only two days after its world premiere at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, suggesting that this is an independent film. I can’t say that I’m surprised because I don’t know of a big studio that would have wanted to touch this subject matter. What is also impressive is some of the cast. There are plenty of strong supporting actors who are attached to this movie, but the two stars that must receive special attention are Adam Driver as Daniel Jones and Annette Bening as Senator Dianne Feinstein. Now I know nothing of Daniel Jones. I don’t recall any newsreels or interviews or anything on record that shows what type of man Daniel was at that time, so when looking at Driver’s acting I can only analyze it from a somewhat blind perspective. I thought Driver gave a compelling performance. I know I use that word a lot to describe someone’s acting, but in this case, it is accurate. Even without knowing anything about Daniel Jones, all of the scenes with Driver had my full attention. He managed to pull me into the scenes and feel the intensity that the character of Daniel was experiencing throughout his investigation, and the turmoil he must have gone through when encountering political speed bumps that at times attempted to block his idealism. I don’t know if this is what the real Daniel Jones went through, but Driver’s acting was certainly committed to the idea that he was for I believed it thoroughly. To say that I was impressed with Driver’s acting is quite the understatement. He has come a long way in just a few years. Based on his performance here there is no question that he will be an acting force to be reckoned with. This leaves Annette Bening as Dianne Feinstein. Here I feel a bit more qualified to comment as I did grow up in the San Francisco Bay Area where the younger Dianne Feinstein got her start on that city’s Board of Supervisors. I saw her on the news and I even remember when she was Mayor of San Francisco. I was quite familiar with the public image that she had, so watching Bening in the role of the now Senator was quite haunting. Bening is a master in the art of subtle acting because she had Dianne Feinstein’s mannerisms down cold. Even the expressions on her face and the look in her eyes shows an enormous amount of conviction in playing this role. I had always known that Bening was a strong actor, but this performance, for me, elevated that skill to a new level.

Courtesy of Sundance Institute

The Report is probably the most thrilling drama to come along in 2019. This is one of those rare movies that are equal parts character-driven (particularly by the roles of Daniel and Senator Feinstein) and story-driven. There are layers upon layers of details here, and while I missed some of those details on my initial viewing of this movie, I found myself on the edge of my seat through to the end. And because there were layers that I initially missed, this opens up the opportunity for me to experience repeat viewings of The Report, and have the satisfaction that catching those extra details will most likely enhance my enjoyment of this movie.

For its intense dramatic story and acting, I give The Report 4.5 out of 5 Stars!

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