In case the imperiled Trump presidency has you pining for the George W. administration from 2004, here is Scott Z. Burns’ cinematic analysis of Dan Jones’ 7,000-page report, “The Report.” The film is an informative and thoughtful study of Jones’ findings, his passion and his methodical intent to execute the most just and moral decision in the face of horror.
As Jones, Adam Driver’s piercing and eerie persona is almost non-existent. Here, the actor is forthright and direct. Jones is a middle school teacher for AmeriCorp and he approaches Obama Chief of Staff Denis McDonough (Jon Hamm) regarding the best way to serve his country. McDonough advises to try the CIA. Jones is appointed to the FBI.
At the office, Dianne Feinstein (Annette Bening) asks to speak to Jones about the destruction of post 9/11 tapes. Jones is mystified. Feinstein requests that the FBI newcomer head an investigation to look into why the tapes were destroyed. With the proper resources, Jones would have his work easily cut out for him, but he has no documents to work from, only brief emails, summaries and memos.
No hard copy exists.
Jones goes to work with a chair, a desk and a single computer. Every day he goes to and from work at a bunker, hardly speaking and not sleeping. His few words to the guard are “Have a good night” each evening.
At his computer, Jones uncovers several electronic memos detailing EITs to Al Qaeda prisoners (enhanced interrogation techniques), without mentioning the effectiveness of operations. Feinstein is aghast and asks Jones to continue. Jones becomes increasingly disgusted reading about the 3 Ds (debility, dependence and dread) this includes, sleep deprivation, forced insertions in the rectum and waterboarding. Jones tries to call attention to this abhorrent torture but gets nowhere.
One night he is confronted by a physician’s assistant (Tim Blake Nelson) who says everything is true, only it is actually worse. Jones is handed a yellow envelope labeled Panetta Report.
Then Gul Rahman, a 9/11 detainee dies from hypothermia during torture.
The film is disturbing, thoroughly researched and excellent in tone and detail. There are several squeamish scenes involving torture, waterboarding and cavity insertion. One can be almost sure the events as they unfolded were considerably more horrid.
No administration gets a pass. Even Obama dropped the ethical ball at first by refusing to criticize Bush or Cheney. Obama finally outlawed EITs in 2015.
The techniques were documented in having no effectiveness whatsoever.
The single political figure who emerges in the best light is John McCain who is understandably repulsed in mentions throughout.
The highlight (if that can be stated given the depressing subject) is Adam Driver himself. As Jones, Driver turns minimalism into an art form, by talking little and walking in rhythm like a metronome, he is a Kafka figure with the weight of intention upon him.
Jones is alone with only his conscience, as he says in the film “I used to sleep but it got in the way of work.” As an ego-less force, driven to be just, the actor brings this moral man to life.
Though “The Report” is yet another tale of American sadness, it deserves to be seen. The existence of Daniel Jones along with countless others represents the empathetic adhesive of our country that (albeit now running thin with our current crisis) still holds.
Write Ian at firstname.lastname@example.org