The Report

Nov 15, 2019

Detailed and sometimes boring drama about not quite sexy, but important, investigative reporting.

The Report

Grade: B

Director: Scott Z. Burns (PU-239)

Screenplay: Burns (The Bourne Ultimatum)

Cast: Adam Driver, Annette Bening

Rating: R

Runtime: 1h 59m

By: John DeSando

In the aftermath of 9/11, the CIA engaged in information gathering of the cruelest kind. The Report is a docudrama that highlights the efforts of Senator Diane Feinstein (Annette Bening) and her staffer, Daniel Jones (Adam Driver), to expose the un-Geneva-like activities such as waterboarding in order to stop their implementation forever.

This drama is not so much dramatic as it is ironic and dispiriting because the great moral force of the world, the US, uses techniques both inhumane and fruitless even though it had already been known that the victims uniformly lie or give up irrelevancies under such torture.  Yet, Feinstein and Jones are so doggedly idealistic that they will not back away from their search despite even opposition from President Obama.

For, you see, information from the torture allegedly helped capture Osama bin Laden, which action boosted the re-election of the president. Although no such information was ever gathered, the forces of deceit won a day in suppressing the results of Jones’s several thousand pages, only to lose in the end with the death the Detention and Interrogation Program.

Driver is nothing if not dogged in his portrayal of a patriot who spend five years only on that project to the exclusion of a personal life. In a sense the film suffers from the lack of outside interaction to help us identify with him as our personal righteous avenger. Except for the Senator and occasional appearances of super staffer Denis McDonough (Jon Hamm), no warm sympathetic or even ugly characters enliven the story.

However, isn’t that the point? In this wonky world, research and writing are the excitement, the sex, and the violence. Try to read the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s 2014 report on the CIA’s post 9-11 detention and interrogation program.

Like the title and the film, it’s dauntingly detailed. Even changing it to “Torture Report” doesn’t help. The 2015 Oscar-winning Spotlight is much more interesting and heroic viewing while it also informs about exciting investigative reporting.

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at