TIFF review: The Report

Scott Z. Burns's docudrama about investigating America's embrace of torture after 9/11 feels like a catalogue of horrors


THE REPORT SPEC D: Scott Z. Burns. U.S. 120 min. Sep 8, 1:45 pm, Winter Garden Sep 10, 3:15 pm, Winter Garden Sep 14, 7:30 pm, Winter Garden. Rating: NNN


The Report aims to occupy the space between Alan J. Pakula’s All The President’s Men and Errol Morris’s Standard Operating Procedure, turning the decade-long effort to expose and unpack America’s embrace of torture after 9/11 into a quasi-journalistic drama that sees Senate staffer Dan Jones (Adam Driver) as the one honest man fighting to bring the truth to light.

Writer/director Burns demonstrated a gift for making exposition dramatic in his scripts for Steven Soderbergh’s The Informant! and Contagion, and he does it again here, with dozens of character actors – among them Sarah Goldberg, Jon Hamm, Tim Blake Nelson, Linda Powell and Maura Tierney – turning up to deliver huge dumps of facts and figures to Driver’s aghast Jones, who then repeats them to other character actors, most prominently Annette Bening as his boss, Senator Dianne Feinstein. 

But Burns doesn’t share Soderbergh’s ability to find a spark of life in every performance, no matter how small, so The Report never becomes anything more a catalogue of horrors – and one that feels almost pointless in light of America’s post-Obama embrace of institutionalized cruelty.

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