Wednesday, 11 December 2019

Film: 'The Report'

Concerned with the unmasking of the attempted cover up of 'enhanced interrogation techniques' on imprisoned suspects by the C.I.A. and others following the 9/11 attacks, this highly earnest (and necessarily partisan) dramatisation of the saga played to me like a TV re-enactment intended to present to an American domestic audience what actually happened.  I've no quarrel with that, but as to being a gripping 'thriller' (which has been more than one verdict I've seen) that's not what I experienced. 

I found it a hard watch in two regards. One obvious aspect was seeing scenes of torture meted out on suspects (not just waterboarding) 'justified' as an attempt to extract information which may save lives in the future, possibly imminently. It's very graphic though all extracts being short in duration, virtually all seen in about the first third of the film. I couldn't bear to look at the screen for some of it.
But more problematic for me was that the film is so awash with details of the political machinations, the Democratic determination, fronted by a steely Diane Feinstein (played by Annette Bening as you've never seen her before) and executed by her appointed lead investigator played by 'flavour-of-the-season' Adam Sandler - oops, I mean Adam Driver (Thanks, B.) - up against primarily Republican motivation of wanting to keep a lid on letting the 'secret' get out of what's actually happening and the thwarting at every turn to discover its true nature, including, for a time, the withholding of such knowledge from the President (George W.Bush) himself.  
Of course I was aware of the broad thrust of the story through what I'd gleaned from the British news channels at the time, though I'm sure that a lot of American viewers would have had more interest in, and a greater grasp of the details, including the blizzard of names involved, all of which, apart from Feinstein herself (whom I knew of from as far back as the Harvey Milk assaassination) none of which meant anything at all to me.

As befits the subject matter the entire film is understandably devoid of all humour so I've not complaints regarding that. But as to finding it as enthralling as I get the impression that I think it feels it is, I'm less sure. It seemed more of an exercise in 'education', putting on record the 'facts' of the case (Can there be another side?) so that after the first hour I was getting to feel a bit brain-hammered. I've no doubt that if it was a similar tale of British shenanigans involving names which had meant something to me, thus providing 'context', I would have found it more absorbing. In fact I came out feeling slightly guilty that I hadn't found it all that involving, given the gravity of the subject matter. Maybe the matter of geography will determine one's reaction to some extent. 

This looks like director Scott Z. Burns' first venture into directing a feature film after being involved in quite a lot of T.V. work, though I fail to see why it was necessary to film this in widescreen when so much of it is merely indoor conversational. A made-for-television product, though undoubtedly of high quality, is precisely what it showed up as being.............5.5.

(IMDb..............7.2 - Rott.Toms............3.8/5 )


  1. Replies
    1. It is indeed all of that, JayGee, though I can't say that it really has to be watched on a cinema screen.