Factually Overwhelming: Our Review of ‘The Report’

Posted in Festival Coverage, Movies, Theatrical, TIFF 2019 by - November 20, 2019
Factually Overwhelming: Our Review of ‘The Report’

The truth is supposed to set us free…but it also has a habit of making things that much more complicated…

While The Report has so many good intentions and it’s fair share of compelling moments it’s just one of those films that beats its audience into submission with facts and details that actually happened rather than actual character development in a film that is admittedly interesting but is undeniably exhausting.

Idealistic staffer Daniel J. Jones (Adam Driver) is tasked by his boss Senator Dianne Feinstein (Annette Bening) to lead an investigation of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program, which was created in the aftermath of 9/11. Jones’ relentless pursuit of the truth leads to explosive findings that uncover the lengths to which the nation’s top intelligence agency went to destroy evidence, subvert the law, and hide a brutal secret from the American public.

We can’t deny that it’s important for movies like The Report to be made because these are moments in history that need to be told to at least give us a chance that we don’t repeat them.  However, in this dialogue and fact heavy affair we get something that is more akin to a documentary as it spews data at us at an alarming rate, and even most documentaries are more entertaining this.

Writer/Director Scott Z Burns has certainly made a name for himself with his recent collaborations with director Steven Soderbergh, but he hasn’t picked up nearly as much as he would have hoped.

Sure, it’s a strong narrative that doesn’t take much for an audience to get engaged in given recent world events and everything surrounding 9/11 which still has political ramifications to this very day but the film is so concerned with nailing us with facts and events and dates that the entertainment value gets washed away in rapid fire successions to try and fit as much in as it can during its 120 min running time.  This actually might have played better as a 6 hour limited series rather than a theatrical effort as everyone is just trying too damn hard to get the point that they want heard across.  We love facts and the truth as much as the next guy, but this film treats them like a large club that it can’t stop pummelling us with.

Meanwhile, Adam Driver proves yet again that it’s hard for him not to be an incredibly compelling and likeable leading man even when he really doesn’t get a chance to do any genuine work.  We get that his character is frustrated in the face of all the red tape and political nonsense that he keeps encountering but it’s always kept boiling inside in the face of ‘trying to the right thing’.  None of the supporting players really get any traction from Jon Hamm as a faceless DC cog all the way to Annette Bening as the idealistic senator Feinstein who is trying to get the truth to the public but knows that it’s harder than even she, a veteran of the halls of power would have ever imagined.  A loaded supporting cast like this film has can often be a benefit, but none of them really get a chance to do much of anything and are there so that they can have this credit on their IMDB pages.

The Report could have been an important picture but it misses the mark quite simply because it tries to do too much.  Less (or longer) could have been so much more, instead we just get an exhausting two hours of truth that makes us forget why we sat down in the theatre in the first place.

The Report opens this Friday at the TIFF Bell Lightbox.

  • Release Date: 11/22/2019
This post was written by
David Voigt is a Toronto based writer with a problem and a passion for the moving image and all things cinema. Having moved from production to the critical side of the aisle for well over 10 years now at outlets like Examiner.com, Criticize This, Dork Shelf (Now That Shelf), to.Night Newspaper he’s been all across his city, the country and the continent in search of all the news and reviews that are fit to print from the world of cinema.
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