Between the Columbine massacre and September 11th terrorist attacks, many have questioned if we’ve become desensitized to violence over the past two decades. Perhaps that’s why America allowed the CIA’s torture program to go on for so long without batting eye. Although more people have come to realize why “enhanced interrogation techniques” aren’t the most effective, the fear that drove America to his point remains very much prevalent. Whether it’s separating families at the border or instituting entire travel bans, the government feels vindicated in whatever immoral act they commit as long as it keeps the country safe. The Report dares to ask, “Exactly how safe are some of these actions keeping people?”
The Report details one of America’s greatest injustices in the wake of 9/11. It also serves as a cautionary tale for people who assume that they can’t make a difference. The truth is that even a small group can spark change. It just may take a decade of commitment and perspiration to take a baby step. In Scott Z. Burns’ riveting drama, Daniel Jones (Adam Driver) leads the crusade against the CIA’s torture tactics. Jones dedicated a majority of his career in the Sensate to investigating the CIA’s detention and interrogation program, accumulating to a 6,700-page report. Although this would go down as the biggest investigation in U.S. Sensate history, writing the report was the easy part. The real challenge was getting anyone to read it.
One of the few high-powered politician’s in Jones’ corner is Senator Dianne Feinstein, exquisitely played by Annette Bening. Yet, even Feinstein’s hands appear to be tied with the CIA constantly breathing down her neck and others assuming that torture works. Burns does an exceptional job at capturing the zeitgeist of a country that gets most of its information on terrorism from 24. After all, if Jack Bauer can torture a terrorist into submission within an hour or less, surely we can expect similar results in real life. The Senate Intelligence Committee’s mission only grows more difficult after Osama bin Laden is killed and waterboarding is credited for igniting the trail. This assumption is only strengthened by Zero Dark Thirty, which some found misleading in its positive portrayal of torture. Kathryn Bigelow’s film would certainly make for an interesting double feature with The Report.
Although Burns’ film is clearly against enhanced interrogation methods, it interestingly doesn’t seem to align with one political party. While The Report never shies away from the mistakes George W. Bush made in office, Barack Obama doesn’t come off much better. From this movie’s perspective, Obama was willing to turn a blind eye to the CIA’s operations, as bin Laden’s death secured his reelection. It wasn’t until Jones’ report hit the fan that the White House had no choice but to comply. Burns’ script manages to be very biased while also being unbiased, striking a balance that few political dramas have.
The Report also wisely avoids the temptation to portray Jones as a loan hero who takes on a broken system. Oliver Stone fell into this trap with his biopic about Edward Snowden, who got turned into a saint with no real faults. Here, Jones is depicted as a hard-working politician just doing the best job he can. Driver is superb in the role, molding Jones into a resolute everyman who won’t give up until his work is done, but won’t compromise his ethics to get it done either. Burns has made a film that warrants comparison to All the President’s Men, demonstrating how sometimes the pen is mightier than the sword.