THE REPORT (dir. Scott Z. Burns): 2019 Philadelphia Film Festival review

THE (TORTURE) REPORT is captivating start to finish — the audience is expected to keep up with all the timeline and key elements changing the course of the investigation, and understand references to political parties and where they stand on issues. If you actively read the news and are familiar with headlines from the G.W. Bush presidency (VP Dick Chenney) and Obama’s election, you likely will not learn anything new but, guaranteed, you’ll get a kick out of seeing it all-in-one on screen, especially when an actor like Adam Driver is the one leading the “fight-for-the-truth.”

Which brings me to my first thumbs up: Adam Driver is perfect for the role. His emotions rise and fall, never gratuitously, in a way that feels unscripted or impossible to script, even in the middle of such a meticulously structured timeline of events. He’s not a hero, he’s not a victim, he’s not a villain… He’s a ‘serious’ guy who takes his job seriously. He has seemingly no personal motives. He follows facts but he has feelings, sometimes ingenuous and unfiltered. Most importantly, he’s a guy whose morality keeps dodging the corruption bullet somehow.

Likes:

  • Openness in criticizing real-life authority figures and conflict in separation of powers between local/federal/state and using real names
  • Emphasis on the vapidness of the defense arguments claiming innocence of corrupt individuals—funny and frustrating at the same time, as portrayed by Adam’s tantrums countering every single argument presented by new DCI (John Brennan) with legit facts, but not being allowed to do so outside the room with his boss Diane Feinstein (US Senator appointed to the Intelligence Committee)
  • Funny highlight: CIA hires a couple of “commercial psychologists” who come in with their little consulting-style powerpoint presentation, with very sharp visuals and impressive numbers—claiming “scientific validity” of the new “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques” (aka TORTURE)⸺I doubt the satirical humor here was coincidental.

Dislikes:

  • Dominic Fumusa playing former DCI George Tenet—other than slight physical resemblance to the real George Tenet, no compatibility with the role—too soft-spoken and, I suspect, camera-shy.
  • The ending brings me back to an unpleasant reality, where even a good movie has to end in a shady promise of a better future and “never again” redemption-speech. Makes you wonder if everything you experienced the past two hours was really meant to call out the bad guys, to open the public’s eyes to the human idiocy behind bad policy and validate the public’s distrust of authorities. Instead, I began to think that maybe it took the form of visual entertainment for the sake of regaining public trust of authorities through confession and false redemption. I found myself thinking: “Never again? Really? So, you want me to close my eyes and whole-heartedly regain trust in your institutions just because the bad guys (for once!) got caught and exposed?”

All in all, watch it for Adam Driver, for the modern history classroom lesson it may become one day when your grandkids are in high school, and try not to be fooled by the redemption tone.

Part of the 2019 Philadelphia Film Festival. Scheduled for a limited theatrical release on November 15, 2019, before streaming on Amazon Prime.

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About the author

Yumna Tolaimate

Yumna Tolaimate is a writer, photographer, visual artist, performer, and music-philosophy-psychology junkie. She's a #multipotentialist who juggles many forms of expression, digital and analog: photo + video, paint, collage, illustration, design + typography, dance, performance art, poetry, literary + non-fiction writing. Her art is the product of many experiences lived, tools learned, languages spoken, places traveled, connections made, books read, memories invented + repressed, and some odd combination of empathy + extroversion + insecurity + self-awareness + emotional intelligence + universal uncertainty. She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania / Wharton School with BS Economics (spec. Marketing) + BA International Relations & minors in Spanish + Fine Arts. She speaks four languages. Learn more at yum-na.com/about-me.