“The Report,” starring Adam Driver as lead investigator and author of the “Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Committee Report of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program” Daniel Jones, sets up what is to come very early on in the film when a CIA agent says,
“Paper has a way of getting people into trouble at our place,” to Jones.
When we first meet Jones he is an idealistic staffer for California’s Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein (Annette Bening). A hard worker, he throws himself into his latest project as chief investigator on what would become the largest study the Senate ever conducted, a look into the use and abuse of E.I.T.s – enhanced interrogation techniques, sanctioned by the Bush/Cheney administration in the months and years following 9/11.
Working with a small team in a small underground bunker with no wi-fi and, at first, no printers to create documents that could leave a paper trail, Jones uncovers unimaginable cruelty and through the course of six years and in generating a document that spans almost 7,000 pages cannot find any instances of the torture—i.e. waterboarding, sense deprivation techniques and physical abuse—leading to the uncovering of any useful information. When Feinstein is told one subject was waterboarded—a method of torture that simulates drowning—183 times she says, “If it works why do you have to do it 183 times?”
Jones finds himself stuck in the political process, a cog in a very big wheel determined to crush him and keep the results of his work, including accusation of CIA certified murder, under wraps.
“The Report” contains high voltage ideas and accusations but is dry as a bone. It’s a Sorkin-esque social drama without the engaging drama the “Social Network” writer brings to his projects. Writer-director Scott Z. Burns captures the labyrinthine machinations that keep Washington in a constant state of intrigue but gets lost in the complexity of the situation. Cover-ups are never straightforward, especially one with the juice to generate 7,000 pages of damning evidence. The result is a plodding procedural that, although incendiary, never catches fire.