Amazon’s ‘The Report’ is bone-chilling but brilliant

Adam Driver in 'The Report' (2019).

Based on the true story of the Senate investigation into the CIA’s use of torture following the Sept. 11 attacks, “The Report” is one of the year’s hardest but most important films to watch.


Adam Driver stars as Daniel Jones, the lead investigator into the CIA’s detention and interrogation program. The film follows Jones as he investigates the program, writes an extensive report and later works to get the report released. 


The movie depicts some of the brutal techniques used on detainees, including waterboarding, sleep deprivation and long periods of confinement. These scenes are incredibly disturbing to watch, but they are so shocking that I also found it hard to pull my eyes away from the screen on more than one occasion.


As the film progresses, Driver does an excellent job of showing Jones becoming more and more frustrated with the drawn out process and the obstacles intentionally placed in his way by high-ranked officials. These obstacles aimed to prevent him from discovering the truth and sharing it with the public. At the same time, Jones becomes less and less able to keep his own thoughts and emotions about the investigation to himself. Driver is able to show all of this without ever being over-the-top.


The film also stars Annette Bening as Senator Dianne Feinstein, the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Jon Hamm as Denis McDonough, who worked in the White House under Barack Obama. Both Bening and Hamm give stellar performances, which can be expected from actors of their caliber.


“The Report” includes clips of both former vice president Dick Cheney and former senator John McCain, which add to the credibility of the film. These clips help to tell the story while maintaining as much of the truth as possible.


Most of the film consists of clean, stationary shots, with panning used sparingly. This makes the panning shots that are included more impactful, especially when they are paired with tense scenes. One shot that stands out early on in the film is a 20-second panning shot during the Senate Intelligence Committee’s vote to approve the investigation. 


Bonus materials accompanying the film include general trivia about the actors and the real-life events portrayed in the movie. It also includes scene commentaries from the real Daniel J. Jones and writer and director Scott Z. Burns. I highly recommend watching these commentary clips because they, along with the general trivia, help viewers navigate the truth to the story and the liberties taken by the filmmakers. 


The only drawback of the film is that it can be hard to follow at times because of the many time jumps and large cast. While the main plot is moving forward, the film includes many flashbacks to the enhanced interrogation program while it was being developed and implemented. The large supporting cast can be equally difficult to keep track of, but as long as viewers know the major players, they can understand the basic plot of the movie.

This is a film that requires a lot of attention and can be appalling to watch, but it is one that artfully tells an important story about events in recent American history. “The Report” is currently streaming on Amazon Prime, and a transcript of the unclassified summary of the report can be found on the Senate Intelligence Committee’s website.

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