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MOVIES: The Report (LFF 2019) - Review

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Scott Z. Burns’ The Report is all about accountability and oversight. It opts for a realistic, formulaic approach to truth, justice and the American way, following Daniel Jones’ investigation into the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program following the events of 9/11 which was found to be brutal, immoral and ineffective. Jones himself spent five years to uncover a story which those higher than the CIA fought to keep hidden, depicting brutalised attacks that were completely ineffective in their nature. The film itself doesn’t shy away from showing these attacks, with several torture sequences captured in an uncompromising, harsh way that leaves little to the imagination, telling the audience before showing them so you will always develop a growing sense of immediate and terrifying dread.

The cast of the film is – as befitting of most journalism movies, a strong one. It has Adam Driver, Corey Stoll, Jon Hamm, Linda Powell, Annette Bening and more in a variety of roles, but Driver is the only constant presence in the film with actors like Gotham’s Ben McKenzie being limited to a short cameo. Driver himself delivers justice to Daniel Jones with another acting masterclass from one of the best actors of his generation, and Bening is as respected and as commanding as ever as Senator Dianne Feinstein, one of the senators in charge of the operation, making a good counterbalance to Jones. A constant reminder sees the film paint Edward Snowden’s actions as a whistleblower as unpatriotic and a criminal, and whilst Jones comes close to leaking the information, he’s reminded the dangers of rash actions that could put him in a similar situation. The Report doesn’t hold back from taking shots at Zero Dark Thirty, and showcasing the dedication of Jones’ work and just how committed he was to the truth.

There have been plenty of journalist related films over the past few years focusing on key important investigations and whilst some have hit the ground running like Spotlight, others like The Front Runner and The Post have been less gripping The Report feels more in line with The Front Runner than Spotlight. It’s not going to challenge for any awards any time soon, but as far as films go, there are worse movies out there. It hits the formulaic biopic structure and does little to break the mould, treading over tired ground, sticking to a steady pace that offers little in the way of risk, opting for the safe option wherever possible. Where the film takes the most risks is in its early 2000s flashbacks where the tone of the scenes and its structure feels like an early 2000s film, juxtaposed with the present day sequences that feel very much like a modern, late 2010s drama, leading to somewhat of a tonal difference between the two narratives.

That said, the performances are where the film shines – Driver is fantastic and Annette Bening completely transforms herself into the role as Senator Feinstein, with both adding excellent performances to their already fantastic filmographies where it is increasingly proving that they can do little wrong. Burns’ direction is competent and considering how much information is being dumped on the audience throughout the film, it’s to The Report’s credit that it can garner a range of emotions from the audience, mostly in the form of anger; anger that there wasn’t proper oversight or accountability in place for the horrific actions committed under the guise of putting the country first and foremost, and the final credits really reinforce this point.

The Report is airing at the London Film Festival in October and you can watch a trailer for the film here.

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