The Report Review: A visceral telling of shocking secrets driven by two strong performances
Showcasing the real-life story of one man’s discovery of the horrors behind the CIA’s post 9/11 interrogation tactics, Amazon’s new film, The Report, is legitimately shocking in the graphic nature of its story and boasts some incredibly strong performances from Adam Driver and Annette Benning.
The film follows Daniel Jones (Driver), a Senate staffer that works under Senator Dianne Feinstein (Benning) and takes on a new assignment to investigate the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program that was put into place after 9/11. Upon looking into the new methods of interrogation put into place at that time, Jones makes horrifying discoveries that these new methods were really just grotesque and inhumane torture methods that rarely, if ever, saw any viable results. Determined to bring these findings to light, Jones works tirelessly for years as the CIA works against him so that their war crimes never see the light of day.
Driver continues to show how strong of an actor he is as he makes Jones’ slow building anger and emotion so easy to connect to. Jones isn’t the kind of person that shows a whole lot of emotion and most people even view him as an anti-social type who is deeply invested into his work – and that’s kind of what’s shown when we initially meet him. As Jones begins to look into the CIA’s torture methods, it’s easy to see how it affects him, like it would affect anyone, and the held-in anger and emotion he has is the driving force that puts viewers in his corner. There’s a sense of determination and desire for the truth that Driver brings that’s hard not to get behind. Benning also puts in a strong performance and the same kind of build-up of anger, disbelief, and shock that’s Jones has throughout the film. The two of them showcase the fearlessness and determination that makes them heroes for justice and this story so interesting.
Everything in America changed after 9/11 – security measures, tactics, and the entire mindset of Americans. It not only reflected poorly of the CIA for them not be able to see the attack coming but made them desperate to make sure that nothing like it ever happened again. That level of desperation is what makes Jones’ findings so shocking and a tough pill to swallow. The film viscerally depicts the horrors that Jones uncovers and pulls no punches in showing everything that those involved wanted to keep under wraps. There’re times where you can feel your stomach turn and even just hearing how the program came to be and how its ineffectiveness was simply ignored is incredibly effective. Admittedly, it did feel like the film was definitely going for that cinematic shock value that make things seem played up. Even the way the two men who came up with the new methods are treated like pure evil, and while I’m sure that this depiction isn’t too far off considering how awful the real-life acts were, it comes off a little corny with the way they’re made to be like super-villain.
The film can also be a little one-sided because of this depiction and there is a part of me that wished the film leaned a little more heavily into the mindset of those that were a part of the program and were fine with what they did. Because we’re essentially seeing everything from Jones’ point of view, there’s very little time or perspective given to anyone else and it can sometimes feel as if the film is manipulating your feelings. There’re moments where Jones is confronted by people saying things like “you weren’t there” and talking about how they did what they felt was right – but you never feel anything about them or think about their perspective. Now, personally, I don’t support their actions, but I do wish the film treated the situation with the complexity that it really has. Like I said before, 9/11 changed everything and the film doesn’t always reflect that idea.
However, even for my issues with its one-sidedness, it can be kind of understandable because the information and secrets the film reveals. The Report definitely has a high shock value for those, like me, who went in mostly blind as it really showcases how hard it is to fight against the U.S. government. Like Todd Haynes’ Dark Waters, seeing the timeline for how long it took for Jones’ report to reach the public was incredibly effective in showing his persistence for the truth to be unveiled. It’s corruption, collusion, and deception shown in a way that really hits you and makes Jones and Feinstein’s determination admirable.
The Report almost feels as if you’re watching something you shouldn’t at times and it’s a true testament to the visceral nature of its subject matter. Driver and Benning are as great as ever and it brings out such strong emotions that feel real – even if some of them feel forced at times. It’s easily one of Amazon’s best films and if you’re a Prime member like me, there’s no excuse to miss out.