‘The Report’ is eye-opening portrayal of dark time in US history

Avery Wohleb

This movie covers the contents of a 7,000-page report, and it definitely feels like it.

Directed by Scott Z. Burns, “The Report” tells the story of former Senate staffer Daniel Jones and his investigation into the use of unethical and possibly illegal interrogation tactics used by the CIA on suspected terrorists following the Sept. 11 terror attacks. Over the course of five years, Daniel compiles thousands of pages covering the findings of his investigation. Eventually released under the guidance of California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the report encouraged a check of the powers held by the CIA and painted a shameful portrayal of the United States government. 

Within the first few minutes, the movie kicks off its quick pacing with immediate action. When establishing the timeline of events, jumping back and forth between key years makes for an overwhelming introduction. While different colored lenses help a little in keeping track of the constant leaps in time, events within the past and present narratives sometimes lack a cohesive structure that establishes exactly when vital events are taking place. 

Adam Driver gives an admirable performance as Daniel. Driver’s portrayal puts a strong emphasis on Daniel’s calamity during high-stress situations, making the ultimate buildup and final display of his frustration feel entirely consuming and powerful. Successfully turning a relatively bleak script into something interesting, Driver nails his subtle facial expressions that turn straightforward scenes into the driving factor of Daniel’s characterization. By the end of the movie, Driver has perfectly encapsulated heroism and selflessness, shedding light on the relatively untold story of an important historical figure who confronted an abuse of power by the CIA.

Annette Bening is calm and collected as Feinstein, who initiated the investigation, giving a raw and honest portrayal of wisdom during a high-stakes time in history. Working in a field dominated by aggressive and power-hungry men, Bening captures Feinstein’s ever-present kindness through each gentle, yet powerful line. Bening creates an inspiring and sophisticated performance of a figure of integrity during an era that otherwise lacked it.

The movie excels in its cinematography and soundtrack. Although the storytelling sometimes becomes difficult to understand as it builds in complexity, it is never visually or aurally unpleasant. Shots are appropriately lit to match the tone of the scene taking place — they’re either highlighted to emphasize a breakthrough in the investigation or dim when struck with another dead end. The accompanying music is effective in building intensity or conveying defeat, making the overall cinematic experience constantly engaging to keep the audience on the edge of their seats.

Most of all, the quality of the movie is very high. It is clear that an abundance of planning and effort went into the production in order to include all vital and necessary information in the story. At times, it feels as though the movie is dragging on with several climactic moments toward a questionable final destination, but after it ends it is clear that there isn’t any moment that it could have done without.

Overall, “The Report” is a highly informative movie that sheds light on a time in history that was hidden from the public for too long.

4 out of 5 stars