Amazon’s The Report: A Dark Chapter of History Following 9/11

The Report is an American docu-drama that follows Senate Staffer Daniel J. Jones (Adam Driver) and his small team as they investigate the CIA’s use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” (EIT) on detainees after the 9/11 attacks and the struggles and hurdles to get their findings released. As the title suggests, Director Scott Z. Burns based the film on 500-page summary of the Senate’s classified report on the use of torture in the “War on Terror.” Focusing on the actual report not only allows the film to reflect it’s opposing views, but also the nature that sometimes truth is what you decide it to be – a central theme throughout the film.

Unlike other reviews that cover how truthful the film is to the actual events, the main focus of this review will be on the film itself.

Eigil Bryld’s intimate cinematography subtly captures the tension between Senate and CIA representatives. The film is comprised of primarily close up shots that detail every slight nod and minuscule eyebrow twitch. Amidst these, are shots that clearly display Jones’ stress and involvement with the case. Bryld’s attention to detail captures the disconnection of an agency set to protect the American people by committing illegal acts of torture. At times, these depictions of dehumanizing and humiliating acts are hard to watch, yet a necessary touch Burns needed to bring the classified 6,000-page report to life.

Adam Driver’s performance as Daniel J. Jones is noteworthy. His take on a man whose life becomes mired in the investigation of horrendous and humiliating CIA acts is inspiring and profound. Driver’s every movement is detailed and planned to depict someone whose life is being consumed year after year. With each frame, Jones’ character pulls you into his mind – his work becomes the viewer’s work. Faced with an opportunity to get his way, his thought process of doing it earnestly, honestly, and legally is admirable.

The Report doesn’t need a fancy score to drive the narrative forward – it does it well on its own. Yet, the short melodic phrases of eerie tension build the narrative in a subtle way. Throughout the film, these incomplete phrases create dissonance that can only be resolved once connections are made. David Wingo, whose credits include soundtracks for five documentaries and two docu-series, captures the specific timing necessary to carry this docu-drama. Yet, it’s the films melodic timing that allows moments of silence to carry the heaviest weight.

After its world premiere at Sundance on January 26, Amazon Studios picked up distribution rights. Combining an authentic performance by Driver, intimate cinematography, and subtly powerful score, The Report is a great addition to Amazon Studios’ catalog. However, I am disappointed with its two-week theatrical release window. As streaming services build more momentum, the shelf life of films in theaters may make them not worth the price of a ticket. Which is concerning for anyone who wants to experience these films in theaters.

The Report was released theatrically on November 15, 2019 and will be available on Prime Video on November 29, 2019.

Julia Burgos , an English major pursuing the Film Studies certificate, is a hopeful she’ll complete her senior year with minimal sleep deprivation.