The Report is just boring

The Report (Adam Driver, Annette Bening) – Adam Driver and Annette Bening scowl their way through The Report, the story of the Senate Intelligence Committee investigation into the use of EITs – Enhanced Interrogation Techniques (also known as torture) in Iraq and Afghanistan.  These fine actors are worthy of a better script and film than The Report.  Maybe they never had a chance.

Driver plays Dan Jones, an investigator for the committee whose team paws through tens of thousands of e-mails, memos, and documents that prove that the CIA, other intelligence agencies and private contractors pushed interrogations way beyond moral levels to get information about Al Qaida, Saddam Hussein, and other terrorists.  They used techniques authorized by the Bush Administration and covered up by them and the Obama Administration.  And, oh yes, the techniques didn’t work.

But if you believe this movie, every Republican, intelligence official, and many Democrats ignored the information or were deceived.  Only Jones, his small group of investigators locked up in the basement of the Capitol, and Senate Intelligence committee chair Dianne Feinstein (Bening) knew the truth.  Jones moves from truth seeker to obsessed moralist to occasional whistleblower.  Feinstein never moves at all … or at least Bening never gets out of her office or the secure SCIF (Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility).

Now I get it.  It is hard to make an exciting film about a handful of people who spent six years reading.  Or to create drama from meetings in a senator’s office or a conference room.  Mostly, Driver and Bening look earnestly incredulous while raising their voices – mostly at each other.  Boring!  To make the movie even modestly dramatic, there are flashbacks to war zones to show waterboarding and other EITs as military and intelligence personnel cross the line of human decency and legality.

The Report is one of several movies debuting on screening services (Amazon, Prime Video, Hulu, Netflix) at the same time as they open in limited release in theaters.  This makes the movies eligible for the Oscars, a controversial trend best exemplified by movies like Mudbound and Roma.  This year’s most heralded joint release is Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman.

The Report is not a great film. But if you want to know at least one version of the backstory behind the way the use of EITs was made public, you may want to watch it … particularly if you already pay for Prime Video.

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