The Report (2019 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Scott Z. Burns|
|Written by||Scott Z. Burns|
|Music by||David Wingo|
|Edited by||Greg O'Bryant|
|Distributed by||Amazon Studios|
The Report is a 2019 American drama film written and directed by Scott Z. Burns and starring Adam Driver, Annette Bening, Ted Levine, Michael C. Hall, Tim Blake Nelson, Corey Stoll, Maura Tierney and Jon Hamm. The plot follows staffer Daniel Jones and the Senate Intelligence Committee as they investigate the CIA's use of torture following the September 11 attacks. It covers more than a decade's worth of real-life political intrigue, exploring and compacting Jones's 6,700-page report.
The Report had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on January 26, 2019 and was theatrically released in the United States on November 15, 2019 by Amazon Studios, before streaming on Amazon Prime beginning November 29, 2019.
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Daniel J. Jones (Adam Driver) is a Senate staffer, selected by Senator Feinstein to lead an investigation into the 2005 destruction of CIA interrogation videotapes. With the conclusion of the two-year investigation and tabling of the report, Feinstein announced the launch of a second, larger investigation. Jones' small team of six, which includes April and Julian, begins work in early 2009 reviewing 6 million pages of CIA materials in a windowless office.
The narrative shifts back to 2001, introducing George Tenet (Dominic Fumusa), Bernadette (Maura Tierney) and Gretchen (Joanne Tucker) at the Counterterrorist Center (CTC), anxiously watching live videos of the September 11, 2001 attacks. At the CIA headquarters a few days later, Tenet reports on his meeting at Camp David with President George W. Bush and CTC director, Cofer Black. John Rizzo, the CIA's legal counsel said that the President had given the CIA powers to "capture and detain suspected terrorists."
When Abu Zubaydah (Zuhdi Boueri) was captured in 2002, the FBI and CIA were cooperating. The CIA hired two contractors, Bruce Jessen (T. Ryder Smith) and James Elmer Mitchell (Douglas Hodge), who developed so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques" (EITs) based on the Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape training given to American servicemen. Although both men are psychologists, their professional education and experience has nothing to do with interrogation. Jessen and Mitchell's clinical presentation of their techniques on PowerPoint slides contrasted with the actual torture being carried out at black sites. Jessen and Mitchell are present during the implementation of EITs—observing, commenting, and in some cases, actively participating. Bernadette is often present as a witness, at times, seeking justification for the CIA's use of torture.
Jones meets with FBI agent Ali Soufan (Fajer Al-Kaisi) and learns more about the CIA's interrogation program, particularly regarding Abu Zubaydah (Zuhdi Boueri). The interrogation of Abu Zubaydah is shown, contrasting the FBI's approach with the CIA's EITs. Bernadette is present as a witness. The FBI arrived at the Thailand black site before the CIA arrived. Soufan, who speaks both English and Arabic, said they kept Zubaydah alive and gathered crucial intelligence in the days before the CIA took over the interrogations. The CIA disagreed on techniques and results.
The investigation shifted when Jones briefed Senator Feinstein in her office, providing the evidence from the CIA's own records, proving that the CIA knew Zubaydah was not a high-ranking member of al-Qaeda, as they had falsely reported to the Department of Justice (DOJ). After the CIA told President Bush that Zubaydah was a key player, they received authorization in an August 2002 CIA memo to torture Zubaydah, making him the first detainee to be tortured.
Raymond Nathan (Tim Blake Nelson), a physicians assistant with the Office of Medical Services, secretly met with Jones and told him that he and others had wanted to leave the service because of the use of torture. He witnessed the waterboarding of Zubaydah, who almost drowned and was who lost consciousness during the procedure. Nathan said that they were told by Director Jose Rodriguez (Carlos Gomez) to not put their complaints in writing.
In a meeting with the Office of Legal Counsel, lawyer John Yoo explained the narrow re-definition of torture that permitted "enhanced interrogation techniques". In order for a technique to qualify as torture, it had to be far more brutal than the standard previously used by the CIA.
Jones and April uncovered the story of Gul Rahman who died in his cell from hypothermia in 2002. Jones met with Feinstein and her staffer Marcy Morris (Linda Powell) to tell them about the Inspector General's report of the incident. The CIA had undertaken its own investigation into the death. Jones said that the National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice had been told to not inform the President about the redefinition of torture. President Bush only learned about this four years later in April 2006.
Jones finds the Panetta Review among the files provided by the CIA. The Panetta Review is an internal CIA review—prepared in 2009 but never shared—of its use of torture. While watching TV at a bar after work, April, Julian and Jones became discouraged as they watched a broadcast claiming that torture had yielded good intelligence and prevented terrorist attacks. Jones stays up all night to disprove the media claims; the CIA's own data showed it already had crucial information from Khalid Sheikh Mohammad (KSM) (Ratnesh Dubey) before subjecting him to torture. The next scene shows Jessen in March 2003, waterboarding Mohammad and threatening to hurt Mohammad's children as loud heavy metal music plays in the background. Mitchell complains that when tortured, Muhammad lies to avoid more torture. Mitchell wants to go easy on Mohammad for awhile, then go in harder. Bernadette, who is witnessing from another room admits they have a problem. Gretchen decides that the torture will continue.
April announces that she would be taking a new job, discouraged by the lack of support for their research and her concern that the report might never be published. She said that the CIA knew in 1978 that torture did not work but they did it anyway.
In response to the April 21, 2004 address to the United Nations by President Bush, in which he denounced the use of torture, Tenet, Bernadette, Mitchell, Jessen, Thomas Eastman, Jose Rodriguez, and John Rizzo met to discuss how they would respond. Jack Goldsmith, the OLC's new head, had repudiated and withdrew the Torture Memos. Mitchell gave an impassioned speech in defense of his methods and Rodriguez said he would have the program re-certified.
Jones seeks legal advice to challenge charges laid against him that he has "stolen" the CIA's Panetta Review files from their computer system. His lawyer, Cyrus Clifford (Corey Stoll) advises him that he does not have a legal problem, he has a "sunlight" or transparency problem. Jones meets with New York Times reporter (Matthew Rhys) and suggests he look into the CIA break-in and theft at the Senate Intelligence Committee's closed facilities. Jones is careful to provide the reporter with no details. When the Times article is published, Jones is called into a meeting with Morris and Senator Feinstein, who is visibly angry with him.
Senator Mark Udall (Scott Shepherd) confronts Caroline Krass (Jennifer Morrison) during the December 17, 2013 SSCI hearing, stating that he "was more confident than ever of the accuracy of the committee's 6,300 page study". The CIA's formerly secret Panetta Review was consistent with SSCI's report on CIA torture and conflicted with the CIA's official response. Burns used the original dialogue from the official transcript for that scene almost in its entirety.[Notes 1]
Faced with unrelenting blocks to the report's publication, Jones met in an underground parking lot with the New York Times national security reporter, but ultimately decided he would work through official channels; he would not leak the report to the media.
- Adam Driver as Daniel Jones
- Annette Bening as Dianne Feinstein
- Jon Hamm as Denis McDonough
- Jennifer Morrison as Caroline Krass
- Tim Blake Nelson as Raymond Nathan
- Ted Levine as John Brennan
- Michael C. Hall as Thomas Eastman
- Maura Tierney as Bernadette
- Sarah Goldberg as April
- Lucas Dixon as Julian
- Douglas Hodge as James Elmer Mitchell
- T. Ryder Smith as Bruce Jessen
- Fajer Al-Kaisi as Ali Soufan
- Linda Powell as Marcy Morris
- Dominic Fumusa as George Tenet
- Noah Bean as Martin Heinrich
- Corey Stoll as Cyrus Clifford
- John Rothman as Sheldon Whitehouse
- Joanne Tucker as Gretchen
- Ian Blackman as Cofer Black
- Zuhdi Boueri as Abu Zubaydah
- Carlos Gomez as Jose Rodriguez
- Ratnesh Dubey as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed
- Scott Shepherd as Mark Udall
- Kate Beahan as Candace Ames
- James Hindman as Inspector General Buckley
- Austin Michael Young as Agent Miller
- Joseph Siravo as John Rizzo
- Ben McKenzie as Scrubbed CIA Officer
- Jake Silbermann as Yoked up CIA Officer
- Matthew Rhys as New York Times Reporter
The film began production on April 16, 2018 in New York with Tim Blake Nelson, Ben McKenzie, Matthew Rhys, Ted Levine and Michael C. Hall added to the cast the following month. In June 2018, Maura Tierney joined the cast. Originally set with a 50-day shooting schedule and $18 million budget, the allotted shooting days were cut to 26 and the final budget to $8 million.
It had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on January 26, 2019. Shortly after, Amazon Studios acquired distribution rights to the film. In October 2019, it will appear as a spotlight film at the Hamptons International Film Festival. It is scheduled to be theatrically released in the United States on November 15, 2019, before being released on Prime Video two weeks later on November 29. It was previously scheduled for respective September 27 and October 11 releases.
Unlike its previous titles, Amazon did not publicly disclose theatrical gross of The Report, leading IndieWire to estimate it grossed around $150,000 from 84 theaters in its opening weekend. The site wrote that "the response, so far as we can determine, are under the usual Netflix performance." Playing in just 60 theaters the following weekend, the film made an estimated $75,000.
On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 82% based on 190 reviews, with an average rating of 7.21/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "The Report draws on a dark chapter in American history to offer a sober, gripping account of one public servant's crusade for accountability." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 66 out of 100, based on 33 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
In August 2019, Human Rights First announced that it will award the 2019 Sidney Lumet Award for Integrity in Entertainment to The Report at the organization's annual award dinner on October 28 in New York City.
PBS NewsHour's Jeffrey Brown asked director Scott Z. Burns on his motivation for making the controversial 2014 report on CIA torture into a movie. Both Burns' parents are psychologists and he found it "appalling" to learn from the Senate Intelligence Committee report, that "people had figured out a way to weaponize psychology", a profession that "exists to help people". Burns said that he and the film's producer Steven Soderbergh, felt it reflected well on the United States that the government allowed the report to be published. Soderbergh said that he did not know "that there's another country, other than maybe Canada or the U.K.", that that "would have even allowed this kind of investigation."
- The Panetta Review was a secret review of the use of torture by the CIA under the administration of George W. Bush, which was conducted by then CIA director Leon Panetta, who served under President Obama as CIA director from February 19, 2009 until June 30, 2011. According to a March 7, 2014 New York Times article, the review yielded a series of memoranda that "cast a particularly harsh light" on the Bush-era interrogation program."
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- Johnston, David (September 10, 2006). "At a Secret Interrogation, Dispute Flared Over Tactics". New York Times. Retrieved January 27, 2012.
- "A Review of the FBI's Involvement and Observations of Detainee Interrogations in Guantanamo Bay, Afghanistan, and Iraq" (PDF). Department of Justice, Office of the Inspector General. May 2008. Retrieved January 27, 2012.
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Declassification Revisions December 3, 2014This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.