The Report (2019) by Scott Z. Burns

The Report is a film about the enhanced interrogation techniques that the CIA used after 9-11 to try and prevent more terrorism. The film unpacks how the counter-intelligence agency went from conducting simple intelligence work to using torture techniques such as waterboarding. The film is led by Adam Driver who plays the senate staffer, Daniel J. Jones, tasked with investigating whether the CIA breached any laws.

The film in my opinion, does a pretty good job of explaining what the CIA was like in 2002 and what it became by the end of that decade. However, the film is not entertaining.

Which I am not sure, is a valid criticism? Can and should a film about the ethical and human rights violations of an organisation be entertaining? Or should it simply serve the facts as clearly as possible?

I would like to think that the answer is the latter, however it does make the film tougher to sit through.

As I am a writer, I would like to consider what I would have done differently to help the plotting along.

I think suggestion one and this is the first one I had so I am rather glad the film didn’t do this; is try to add a more personal element to the story. Such as more family, friends and relationships for the characters. The problem with this is that it often creates fictional aspects about people’s lives that do not exist. For example, had they given Jones a love interest, it would have been a lie but it would have been engaging to see that relationship spiral cause of work. As I do not know the facts about Jone’s life, I cannot say whether this happened, the only reason I consider it is because Jones mentions it. But then perhaps that was all there was to it. Perhaps he was a dedicated man and his failed relationship was a blip on his radar that was guided towards a different goal. In that case, to have played that up for our entertainment, might have been unethical.

The film, by not doing this, makes a clear point of asking us to take the facts seriously. This is not a story to have popcorn over, these are facts, this happened and they need to recognised and talked about.

Alternatively, the film could have done something differently structurally, this again is challenging as the outcome is well known. The film is slightly non-linear, it has to be as it covers a rather large time period and is reflecting on it. I do not see how it could have done things differently here.

The more I think about it, the more I wonder if this film should have just been a documentary. Maybe it is a documentary and the best thing it did is cast good actors so that more people cared to watch it, because lets face it, people won’t watch documentaries. Even the violence depicted was just enough leave an impact.

Yes, in conclusion, good film, very informative, not very entertaining and yet gripping.

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