Whistle-Blowing Can Be Hazardous To Your Health: A Review Of 'The Report'
Exposing the illegal detention and extreme interrogation techniques of suspected Al Qaeda militants by the CIA is at the center of this Amazon Original
The genre of whistle-blowing films has a long and storied history. From All the Presidents Men and Erin Brockovich, to Spotlight, and Dark Waters earlier this year, it seems we will never be wanting in terms of subject matter. The impetus to give celebrated exposes a film treatment is a given, so it becomes more a matter of creating and balancing a gripping narrative with the plodding nature of real-time investigating.
Torture Report has as its subject matter the more than a decade-long investigation into the CIA’s systematic use of illegal detention and “enhanced” torture techniques on suspected Al Qaeda terrorists. Coming right after 9/11, there is the need to contextualize this; how the CIA would justify their transgressions with the urgent need for information, coupled with the anger/frustration over 9/11.
Daniel Jones (portrayed by a stoic, terrific Adam Driver) is a DC staffer for Senator Dianne Feinstein (Annette Bening), and assigned to investigate, without much support or actual authority. He’s an idealistic patriot, and is out for the truth. He isn’t out to discredit or bring down the CIA; but of course, no cornered rat will go down peacefully, or think what’s being done is for his own good. So what the film chronicles is Dan’s persistence and dogged pursuit of the truth, and the roadblocks, dilatory tactics, and obfuscation that the CIA would throw up to protect themselves.
Documentary-like zeal in the presentation of the facts and sequence of events makes this a rather challenging watch. Director Scott Burns refuses to romanticize or convert the drama into thrilling action. More than dramatic, this is about density and taking a very sober and realistic exposition.
One might wonder if all this granular detailing of what is essentially a cerebral journey of discovery can still make compelling cinema. Credit Adam Driver for helping this happen. A far cry from his Star Wars, or even Marriage Story, personas, this is really Adam’s season of bewitching performances. Bening as Feinstein also gets kudos for keeping the film in perspective, showing how the big picture impinges on this David battling Goliaths.
It’s perhaps unfair that in this time of regular exposing, revelations and whistle-blowing; The Report comes along and might look like old hat or same-same. That would be a shame as there’s some potent questions being asked about national conscience and the price of freedom.
The Report is currently available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.