The Report


Going through millions of pages in government reports could turn anybody into Kylo Ren.

(2019) True Life Drama (AmazonAdam Driver, Annette Bening, Jon Hamm, Ted Levine, Maura Tierney, Michael C. Hall, Corey Stoll, Linda Powell, John Rothman, Victor Slezak, Guy Boyd, Alexander Chaplin, Joanne Tucker, Ian Blackman, Tim Blake Nelson, Fajer Kaisi, Scott Shepherd, Jennifer Morrison, Matthew Rhys, Kate Beahan, April Rogalski. Directed by Scott Z. Burns

 

As Americans, we have always held ourselves to certain standards. We are strong, true and follow the law. We do the right thing. There came a time though, that our self-image took a pounding.

Young Daniel Jones (Driver) is ambitious, ready to keep America safe after 9/11. He was anxious to make a difference the best way he could – behind the scenes as a Congressional aide. When Senator Diane Feinstein (Bening) asks him to look into recordings of interrogations that the CIA had reportedly destroyed, he uncovered something terrible; evidence that the CIA was torturing prisoners for information.

Calling the effort “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques,” or EIT, the program was put in place by a pair of contractors with backgrounds in psychology and the military. Nobody seemed to be bothered by the fact that the two men had never conducted an interrogation before, or that evidence was strong that torture almost never yielded any actionable intelligence. The program went on and keeping it covered up seemed to be the main focus.

Jones and a small team of researchers worked in a basement office in a CIA satellite office for five years, working crazy hours going through more than six million pages of documents. Despite reluctance by the CIA and certain segments of Congress, Jones pressed and pressed until he uncovered the shocking truth.

The story is an important one, one that is especially relevant these days. Not every important story makes a good movie, however; much of what happened involved researchers sitting in front of a computer screen in a jail cell-like atmosphere. The dramatic tension here is not very strong. It doesn’t help that Burns doesn’t really develop Jones much as a character; we never see much of his personality except for that he’s driven and almost obsessive. He’s passionate about what he’s looking for and sometimes gets frustrated when others don’t share his outrage.

Bening and Driver are both outstanding actors and they don’t disappoint here. Driver is definitely in a much more different kind of role than we’re used to from him and it’s a good fit. I’m impressed by his versatility as an actor and he really stretches himself here. Bening is an actress who doesn’t always get the due she deserves; she probably won’t get a ton of accolades for her performance here but she really brings Feinstein’s personality to the forefront; that’s not surprising considering the two are friends in real life. Good casting is important in any cinematic endeavor.

I can see where those who are politically conservative might not like this much; the Conservatives don’t come up covered in glory here. Still, it’s an important story about how easy it is for the way to be lost, and how wanting to preserve our security can sometimes lead to compromising our soul. It’s a chilling tale and one that needs to be committed to memory.

REASONS TO SEE: A compelling story chilling in its implications. Strong performances by Driver and Bening.
REASONS TO AVOID: Overall the movie is a bit more underwhelming than the story deserves.
FAMILY VALUES: There are disturbing depictions of torture, violence, plenty of profanity and graphic nudity.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The real Daniel J. Jones attended the film’s world premiere at Sundance and received a standing ovation from the audience.
BEYOND THE THEATERS: Amazon
CRITICAL MASS: As of 12/6/19: Rotten Tomatoes: 83% positive reviews: Metacritic: 66/100
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Zero Dark Thirty
FINAL RATING: 7/10
NEXT:
The Last Color

Pick of the Litter – November 2019


BLOCKBUSTER OF THE MONTH

Knives Out

(Lionsgate) Daniel Craig, Jamie Lee Curtis, Chris Evans, Toni Collette. Direct Rian Johnson delivers a delightful homage to Agatha Christie-style whodunnits with this parlor mystery about the murder of a family patriarch on the occasion of his birthday. An all-star cast highlights the festivities which look to be great fun. November 27

OTHER WIDE RELEASES TO WATCH FOR:

Terminator Dark Fate, November 1
Doctor Sleep, November 8
Ford v. Ferrari, November 15
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, November 22
Frozen 2, November 22
Queen and Slim, November 27

INDEPENDENT PICKS

American Son

(Netflix) Kerry Washington, Jeremy Jordan, Steven Pasquale, Eugene Lee. A frantic mother and her estranged husband reunite at a Florida police station in an attempt to help find their missing teenage son. Based on the acclaimed stage play. November 1

Harriet

(Focus) Cynthia Erivo, Janelle Monáe, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Tim Guinee. The story of American icon Harriet Tubman, focusing on her daring escape from slavery to freedom and the iron will it forged to make her into one of the leading abolitionists of her day. November 1

The Kingmaker

(Greenwich/Showtime) Imelda Marcos, Bongbong Marcos. The story of the controversial political career of Imelda Marcos who rose to power first as the First Lady of the Philippines and then to power in her own right. Now elderly, she is plotting to get her son Bongbong elected to the vice-presidency and is rewriting her family history of corruption and exploitation to do it. November 1

Honey Boy

(Amazon) Shia LaBeouf, Lucas Hedges, Noah Jupe, Laura San Giacomo. A child actor grows to young adulthood dealing with an overbearing father. He struggles to reconcile with his dad while dealing with his own mental health issues. November 8

The Report

(Amazon) Adam Driver, Annette Bening, Corey Stoll, Jon Hamm. An American Senator sets a recent graduate to look into files that were destroyed by the CIA and what he finds turns into a national scandal. Based on actual events. November 15

Waves

(A24) Taylor Russell, Kelvin Harrison Jr, Sterling K. Brown, Clifton Collins Jr. Two young couples in South Florida, facing a devastating loss, try to navigate love and forgiveness in the darkest of days. There are a lot of folks whispering that this might just be the best movie of 2019. November 15

When Lambs Become Lions

(Oscilloscope) Jon Kasbe. A small-time poacher, with the Kenyan government cracking down on his vocation and unable to feed his family, turns in desperation to his younger cousin, a park ranger who hasn’t been paid in weeks. November 22

The Irishman

(Netflix) Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Ray Romano. Interesting that one of the year’s most anticipated movies is coming out on Netflix (and on a brief limited theatrical run beginning November 1). Legendary director Martin Scorsese looks at one of America’s most enduring mysteries: the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa. November 27