If you have ever wondered what would happen if someone combined the investigative journalism seen in best picture winner “Spotlight,” with the controversial story behind “Zero Dark Thirty,” “The Report” will satisfy that curiosity.
Written and directed by Scott Z. Burns (“Contagion,” “The Bourne Ultimatum”), with a producing credit from frequent collaborator Steven Soderbergh, this taught, information heavy thriller delivers quite an impact.
It’s not one of those movies you throw on late at night, nor is it something you can watch with divided attention. “The Report” requires full dedication from its audience and then some. Regardless of your political leanings, this film works on a cinematic level thanks to the superb performances by Adam Driver (“BlacKKKlansman”) and another Oscar worthy performance from Annette Bening (“Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool”)
“Go get some experience,” Daniel Jones (Driver) was told as an eager young congressional legislative aid. Assigned to the Senate Intelligence Committee, Jones joined forces with the FBI to investigate tapes from the CIA on torture tactics used during the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.
California senator Diane Feinstein (Bening), chair of the committee, puts Jones in charge. Strict instructions are given that the investigation report contain no politics, feelings or opinions. The bipartisan investigation that begins under one administration, and continues into another, takes quite a turn when Jones digs deeper than anyone expected.
Every time Jones shares new information with Feinstein, her gaze gets lower to the floor. What Jones uncovers is damning on both sides, it’s what her team will do with the information that has everyone in Washington nervous.
Driver’s second Oscar nomination for “Marriage Story,” looks like a done deal. He gives another award-worthy performance in “The Report.” Once again, he plays it quiet, seemingly withdrawn, yet, like water heating on a stove, his performance reaches a boiling point in the final act that’s pretty magnificent.
“The Report” follows a similar gradual acceleration. There is much information to decipher, some won’t have the patience for it. Similar to the structure of “Spotlight,” Burns’ script starts out informative (cinematic investigation) until the audience has what they need for the plot to advance into more elevated themes.
“The Report” becomes engaging as it ties together items we saw in the news, giving much deeper context in a way that everyone can understand.
The amount of research that has gone into this political thriller is an astonishing accomplishment. It has all the makings of a House of Cards season, rolled into a feature-length film, with the excess trimmed away.
Yet unlike House of Cards, this true story is so recent that it contains people many of us voted for. As grounded as Driver’s performance is, it’s Bening who steals the show. Every scene featuring the four-time nominee elevates the film to a higher level. Her mannerisms are in stark contrast to parodies of Feinstein seen on SNL.
Bening does an excellent job portraying a woman eager to act, but reserved, containing her energy and fervor over the disturbing information she’s receiving. It’s one of her best performances and a strong choice in the supporting actress category.
In some ways “The Report” invalidates much of the story behind “Zero Dark Thirty,” and yet, they still can work as companion pieces. Chill-bumps and perhaps even teary eyes can be found in the satisfying ending.
Final Thought: “The Report” is dense and contemplative as it slowly builds to a tactile and thrilling conclusion with an award worthy performance from Bening.