By Brendan Walker and Samantha Johns 11/11/2019
Director Scott Z. Burns takes infamous 6,700-page torture investigation to the big screen with political thriller The Report. Based on real-life political intrigue, the film highlights the seven year investigation led by former Senate staffer Daniel J. Jones.
Through a series of in depth flashbacks and historical context, Burns tells the story of Jones’ experience while working on the largest investigative review in Senate history.
Following the events of 9/11 the CIA had long misrepresented the success of its “enhanced-interrogation procedures” which inspired the Senate Intelligence Committee to sift through thousands of pages documenting torture and abuses of power.
The film makes the conscious choice to never show Jones outside of the basement he works in, so as to focus on his work instead of his personal life.
While Adam Driver, the actor tasked with portraying the real life Jones, puts on one of the best performances of the year, it’s more controlled than usual. There are scenes where he makes excellent use of his volume, but not to a point where his presence overrides the film.
At a College Roundtable held at the Boston Harbor Hotel Friday, Burns and Jones invited students to discuss the making of The Report.
A key talking point for Burns and Jones was previous depictions of torture, and specifically how The Report adresses the issue.
In a scene midway through the film, Jones sees an ABC News report about Zero Dark Thirty, a film depicting the CIA’s efforts and success in killing Osama Bin Laden.
At the round table Jones said,“I personally find it was atrocious that we connect the torture tactics to the Bin Laden raid… because we have the facts”
In this sense, the two films parallel each other. Where The Report is an accurate depiction of the CIA’s mismanaged efforts to gain intelligence about terrorism; “Zero Dark Thirty” inaccurately depicts the work to find Osama Bin Laden.
When asked why this scene was included, Burns pointed out, “This is the first time the character sees what’s going on outside the basement.”
While The Report is a dramatization of Jones’s investigation, Burns says the amount of effort that went into reading all 6.2 million pages of files cannot be matched by a film.
Despite the actual report being released a few years ago, the issues Jones once faced are still prevalent in our government today.
“There was a time when the legislative branch had real pride in their institutions which took over their connections to their party and we kind of need them at this moment,” said Jones when speaking about the need for oversight of organizations like the CIA.
With the Senate’s report on torture long removed from the public concioussness, one may wonder why a movie like The Report was produced. Jones put it simply, saying “This is not about me, this is about the report itself.”