In The Report, when Adam Driver's Daniel Jones is tapped by the Senate Intelligence Committee to investigate the C.I.A's use of torture tactics following 9/11, Annette Bening's Dianne Feinstein gives him one key directive: to not bring emotions into his work. The same can be said of writer/director Scott Z. Burns' thorough, tunnel-vision approach to the film itself, an Amazon release produced by frequent Burns' collaborator Steven Soderbergh that screened at the Toronto International Film Festival last week following its well-received debut in January at the Sundance Film Festival.
The Report is a sober political thriller that's more interested in delivering information with coolheaded precision than in offering up rousing, emotional storytelling. It's a departure from the propulsive action thrills of Kathryn Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty — a film with a very different perspective on U.S. torture methods that Burns' movie directly calls out in one sequence — and of the winking, comedic metaphors of Adam McKay's Vice and The Big Short. But describing The Report as a clerical procedural isn't exactly a knock; though dense with information, the film remains an engrossing and accessible deep-dive into the largest investigation in U.S. Senate history.
Over the course of the five years we follow Driver's Jones, holed up inside a windowless top-security basement office, as he pours over 6.3 million pages of documents detailing the C.I.A.'s $80 million "enhanced interrogation" — aka torture — methods. Those practices are spearheaded by two psychologists with zero interrogation experience, one played by a perfectly-cast Douglas Hodge )who expands on the sadistic villainy of his Black Mirror role). The deeper Jones gets to discovering what exactly happened in the 100 torture tapes the C.I.A. destroyed in 2005, and how none of it actually worked, the more infuriating and powerful The Report becomes. It's a hard sit for more reasons that one, but Burns' film is a compelling, must-see thriller anchored by a pair of excellent, measured performances from Driver and Bening.
The Report is out in theaters on Nov. 15 before its Amazon Prime Video debut on Nov. 29