The Movie Waffler New Release Review - THE REPORT | The Movie Waffler

Sponsor

New Release Review - THE REPORT

the report review
A political staffer is charged with compiling a report on the CIA's torture methods.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Scott Z. Burns

Starring: Adam Driver, Annette Bening, Jon Hamm, Corey Stoll, Maura Tierney, Michael C. Hall, Tim Blake Nelson, Matthew Rhys

the report poster




During WWII, British prisoners in German POW camps would often embark on a campaign of tunnel digging, believing they were pulling the wool over the eyes of their Nazi captors. In most cases however, the prison staff were well aware what their prisoners were up to, and purposely turned a blind eye to their futile antics. The reasoning was that it was better for the prisoners to expend their energy on digging a tunnel than on attempting to overwhelm the guards with physical violence.

the report review


Along with employing some of the Nazis' top scientists, the American powers that be also adopted many of the Third Reich's methods, including the tactic of diversion. You can see it in the three years the US media wasted with constant "We got him now!" headlines regarding the ultimately pointless Russiagate investigation, allowing their own government to get away with all sorts of wrongdoing while the public was fed a new variation of the Cold War "reds under the beds" scare.

[ READ MORE: New Release Review - The Good Liar ]

Hollywood is culpable in this too, consistently failing to tackle the issues of the day until they've blown over. That's why we're getting a movie dealing with the CIA's post 9/11 illegal torture campaign in 2019, rather than 2004 when it needed to be made (see also this year's Official Secrets, another political thriller arriving a decade too late).

the report review


Senate staffer Daniel J Jones (played here by Adam Driver) was a victim of diversion tactics. He was charged with compiling a report into the CIA's torture programme, the idea being that it would shut him away in an office for a few years working on a project that would never see the light of day. It did eventually see the light of day, but much like this film, it was published at a time when it had already become old news.

[ READ MORE: New Release Review - The Irishman ]

Writer/director Scott Z Burns employs a rigid "just the facts" approach that makes The Report a bit of a slog to get through. Lacking characters with external or internal lives, it's not so much a movie as a PowerPoint presentation with actors. It's a series of scenes in which characters pass documents to each other, doling out an often overwhelming amount of information. Everyone's played very well by a smartly assembled ensemble cast, but they only exist to get points across, and some scenes are written in such an on-the-nose manner that they resemble that laughable movie trope of a TV being turned on just at the right time for a breaking news report. There's barely a single conversation that resembles a human interaction, because there are no humans in this movie, just fleshy delivery mechanisms played by famous people.

the report review


There's a great irony to all this, as over the course of the film Jones finds the denizens of DC unwilling to engage with his report because of its depth - it runs close to 7,000 pages - and it's only when he pares it down to a manageable 500 pages that it begins to make an impact. The Report is essentially a story about the necessity of "killing your darlings" if you want to get your message across to the masses. By making an informationally dense but emotionally shallow film, Burns has missed the message of his own movie.

The Report is in UK/ROI cinemas November 15th.




2019 movie reviews



discussion by