The Report follows the investigation into the CIA’s torture of Al-Qaeda detainees following 9/11. The film spans more than a decade, during which public interest in national security was at its peak. The horrors are uncovered by Daniel J. Jones (Adam Driver), who writes a report over 6,700 pages long regarding the use of EITs (Extreme Interrogation Techniques). The audience follows the investigation alongside the protagonist, as the film reveals uncomfortable truths about American counter-terrorism. Written and directed by Scott Z. Burns, the film also stars Annette Bening as Senator Dianne Feinstein, alongside other actors as Jon Hamm, Sarah Goldberg, and Ted Levine.
As is often the nature with historical films, the fundamental appeal lies in our curiosity regarding real world events. The Report taps into this beautifully, through the steady revelation of how torture was justified and implemented, creating a sense of story-telling which can be attributed to Burns’ writing. It is perhaps a little slow to start, but once the investigation moves to the capture and interrogation of Abu Zubaydah (Zuhdi Boueri), the tale rapidly acquires momentum and moves from interesting to gripping.
Perhaps one of Burns’ greatest challenges in the film is to present swathes of legal jargon to the audience whilst keeping their attention. This jargon is inescapable for a story regarding a senate investigation of the CIA, but the overall construction of the film makes it possible to follow, although it is still difficult. The various settings help make it possible to recognise how the language in question relates to either the senate, the investigation, or the CIA. The actors’ delivery is also to be merited in keeping the complicated jargon accessible, but it ultimately seems fair to comment that the film is somewhat challenging in its complexity.
The acting is outstanding, with no exceptions. The scenes of torture are brilliantly and chillingly executed, to such an extent that it was hard not to flinch away from the screen. This violence does, however, earn a trigger warning: the quality of the acting and general execution of the film means that the EITs are particularly disturbing, and do include scenes of nudity, humiliation and physical abuse. Although uncomfortable, the honesty of the film is to its credit. It might not be an easy watch, but it is certainly worthwhile.
Perhaps a challenge of the film to some audiences is the alien American system, with different means of making laws, publishing reports, and conducting politics generally. Anyone watching The Report would benefit from a basic knowledge of the political system in the US, as it certainly allows for a more in-depth understanding of the film’s events. However, this is not a necessity and the film holds significant meaning regardless.
The Report appeals to anyone who enjoys the historical genre, particularly modern history. An interest in politics will make the film doubly enjoyable, but the discomfort and significance of the events depicted holds meaning for any audience.
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