THE REPORT, US, 2019. Starring Adam Driver, Annette Bening, Jon Hamm, Linda Powell, Corey Stoll, Scott Shepherd, Maura Tierney, Michael C.Hall, Sarah Goldberg, Douglas Hodge, T.Ryder Smith, Tim Blake Nelson, Ted Levine, Jennifer Morrison, Kate Beahan, Matthew Rhys. Directed by Scott Z. Burns. 120 minutes. Rated M (Mature themes, violence and coarse language)
Or, perhaps the full title, The Torture Report, but with the word “Torture” redacted with whiteout as happens during the opening credits – redaction being rather significant as the film progresses!
This is the kind of film that this reviewerI would enjoy seeing at any time. The intricacies of politics, especially American politics are always intriguing. And, these years, it does not take very long after the events for behind-the-scenes intrigues and machinations to become the theme of popular films – though it was only two years between Nixon’s resignation and All the President’s Men. In more recent years, there have been W, Vice, Zero Dark Thirty. Fair Game.
But, what makes it even more significant for me, is that it was released in the very weeks that the impeachment of Donald Trump was being voted on. How revelatory is The Report for behind these days’ headlines?
In the meantime, here is the CIA, the exercise of torture from 2002 in the wake of 9/11 and the war against terror until 2008 and its being banned by President Obama. There is plenty to think about as we watch, we are made to realise how much goes on behind the scenes, in the various departments, in the Congress, in the White House, the number of documents, the reports, the redactions, secrecy and security, personal rivalries, protecting of jobs and reputations, increasing carelessness of and/or admitting or covering the truth.
So, for the present, a good film to try to understand what might have been going on during Donald Trump’s initial years, the investigation into Russian interference, the frequent resignations of officials in the administration, the events which led to a impeachment – to be recommended.
Adam Driver’s performance as investigator Daniel Jones is excellent. He is listed as an advisor. He is the embodiment of an intensely principled American, completely dedicated to his work (but no real personal life to speak of), tempted to be a whistle-blower, disgusted with the cover-ups, relentless in his examination of documents, making connections, wanting the truth to be told no matter what. And Annette Bening gives an excellent performance as Senator Diane Feinstein from California, Daniel Jones’ boss, but also to be seen as something of counterbalance. Not that she did not want truth to be revealed, but she was very conscious in her political life of the need for shrewd decision-making and the implications and consequences of politicking.
There is reference to Zero Dark Thirty and the CIA information which led to the attack on Osama Bin Laden. That film also had scenes of torture, bringing to our consciousness the issue and violence of waterboarding. In the early sequences, there is little holding back on indicating the range of tortures that were permitted, the limited medical con-men who sold the CIA on torture, and the vast amount of money spent on it, and the very limited information on future terrorist attacks that it elicited from the victims. As with the torture, there are the grim scenes where CIA officials rather callously watch and concur in the torture, using the principle that the end justifies the means.
There is also a reference to Edward Snowden (remembering Oliver Stone’s portrait of Snowden) and we think of Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning, a reminder of some of the truths that they revealed and deceptions played on the American public and on the world’s public.
As they say, “All will be Revealed”, the revelation may not be immediate but, with communications so complex these days, with human motivation so entangled, but with the hope that there is integrity in truth, so much will be revealed sooner rather than later.
Transmission Released November 14th
Peter Malone MSC is an Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.