The years following 9-11, as I recall, were ones of almost open Islamophobia, fear of bombs in trains, fear of anyone looking ‘suspicious’ holding a cell phone. Many of us smarted hard after the Towers fell, many of us even left the city to seek areas of less risk. [I personally know more than 10 people who moved well outside the NYC area, some clear across the nation, and one even to Hawaii.]
What we didn’t know was the near extreme reaction that the CIA would have, and the lengths that it would go to not just enforce their war on terrorism but to the lengths that they would also go to keep that disclosed while those in charge, those behind the programs of torture meant to extract “the truth” from jihadist suspects, would themselves be rewarded for their actions and today command their own security enterprises.
Adam Driver, an actor who’s on a winning streak following his appearances in BlacKKKlansman, The Dead Don’t Die, and the Oscar hopeful Marriage Story, leads an all-star cast as Daniel Jones, a former FBI employee and Senate staffer assigned by Senator Dianne Feinstein (Annette Bening) to look into the destruction of CIA interrogation tapes. That investigation starts ballooning into an exhaustive, corrosive scrutiny into the torture techniques that were employed by the CIA to extract information — despite proof that these did not produce any intel. As the investigation continues, staffers alongside Jones start to unravel, tensions mount, pressure from anyone within arms’ length of being in that report start to slowly tighten the noose on both Jones and Feinstein (who does what she can to protect Jones), until it seems that perhaps, all this work may not yield anything at all, or will be lost under the umbrella of redaction, leaving only an empty skeleton.
Steven Soderbergh and Scott Z. Burns are masters of bringing an abstract into the fore and basically turning it into the main character. In The Report, all we care for is this mammoth document, and that it sees the light of day to expose a dark, dark place of American extremism. All the characters in this labyrinthine plot merely serve in deference to The
Torture Report, so any inner lives any of them may have is nearly redacted as well, leaving a rather effective thriller that provokes, nauseates, and also serves as food for thought. Despite the lack of characterization, both Driver and Bening do wonders to keep you riveted even when it never rises to the nail-biting tension that last year’s The Post, itself linked to All the Presidents Men, did.