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Film / The Report

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How Far Would You Go to Find the Truth?

The Report is a 2018 thriller written and directed by Scott Z. Burns and produced by Steven Soderbergh.

It tells the true story of the 2012 Senate investigation into the CIA's use of torture in the wake of 9/11. Adam Driver stars as Daniel J. Jones, an idealistic staffer for California Senator Dianne Feinstein (Annette Bening) tasked with leading the investigation and uncovering the evidence and discover the lengths to which the government went to shield themselves from accountability.

The movie also stars Ted Levine, Michael C. Hall, Maura Tierney, Corey Stoll, and Jon Hamm. It premiered at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival ahead of a general release on November 15. The trailer can be seen here.


Tropes Associated With The Report Include:

  • Amoral Attorney: CIA General Counsel John Yoo, who approved the use of torture and infamously determined that the President could legally order a child's testicles to be crushed "to stop a plane from crashing into a building".
  • Bittersweet Ending: Daniel avoids prosecution and is able to complete and release the report, which led to the McCain-Feinstein bill outlawing the practices described being passed and signed. However, the report is heavily redacted and not only were none of the people involved prosecuted, many were promoted.
  • Blatant Lies: The whole justification for the CIA's use of torture is shown to be built on the false identification of one prisoner as a high-ranking member of Al Quaeda.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Its use by the CIA is the focus of the investigation.
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  • CIA Evil, FBI Good: The FBI is portrayed as being more concerned with legality and prisoner care, in contrast with the CIA who are looking for excuses to torture prisoners.
  • Deadly Euphemism: "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques" is explicitly used as a way of redefining techniques that would otherwise be called "torture".
  • Determinator: Nothing will get in the way of Daniel Jones' quest for the truth.
  • Dueling Movies: With The Laundromat, another fact-based investigative procedural written by Scott Z. Burns.
  • Government Procedural: The movie delves deep into the nitty-gritty of how Senate investigations operate.
  • Historical Domain Character: Pretty much everybody, but most notably Senators Dianne Feinstein and Sheldon Whitehouse and then-CIA director James Brennan.
  • How We Got Here: The film opens with Jones meeting up with Cyrus Clifford, a lawyer. We then get to see the events that led to Jones seeking out Clifford in the first place.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: One CIA Agent that approaches Jones claims this about the EITs, and insults him for trying to expose them.
  • Insistent Terminology: When Clifford asks Jones if he stole documents, Jones replies that he "relocated" them.
  • Jurisdiction Friction: When then-Attorney General Eric Holder opens an investigation into the CIA's use of torture, it ends the Agency's cooperation with the Senate investigation. In addition, it causes all Republican Senators and their staffers to pull out. This substantially hampers the ability of the investigation to do its work.
  • Know-Nothing Know-It-All: It's pretty clear that Jim Mitchell and Bruce Jessel have no clue what they’re talking about and that their “improved” interrogation techniques are nothing of the sort. Tellingly, when Ali Soufan asks them whether they have ever participated in an interrogation of terrorists, criminals, or literally anyone, Mitchell responds that he has never attended a real interrogation, yet continues to espouse how the EITs are a godsend.
  • Married to the Job: Jones admits he became this over the five years he worked on the torture report; he had a relationship early on, but it ended because of his work. Later, one of his co-workers quits because she's afraid of the same thing happening to her.
  • Never My Fault: The CIA seems to have a terminal case of this. The film implies that the reason the CIA began to use torture was to cover up the fact that 9/11 could have been prevented by them. When it becomes clear the EITs don’t work, they continue it anyway and act like it works so they don’t have to admit that they screwed up, and when Jones gets too close to releasing the report, they treat him like an Obstructive Bureaucrat for daring to point out the flaws and basic inhumanity of their methods.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: John Brennan is portrayed as becoming this once he's confirmed as CIA director, downplaying the investigation, insisting on heavy redactions to the report, and spying on the investigators.
  • Once More, with Clarity!: Early in the movie, Jones leaves the facility he works at, and it's implied that he stole (or "relocated"; see Insistent Terminology above) something from there. When we see the scene later in the movie, we see it was the report inside the CIA condemning the "enhanced interrogation techniques" they were using.
  • Only Sane Man: During the torture of Zubaydah, FBI Agent Ali Soufan is the only one to realize that Mitchell and Jessel have no clue what they are talking about and that the EITs are ineffective. After he gets kicked off, Raymond Nathan takes up the role by being the only one to be horrified by Zubaydah’s treatment.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Senator Feinstein serves as this for Jones. Only a couple people from the intelligence community oppose torture by the CIA. She's dedicated to both stopping it and exposing the truth when Jones delivers his report to her, in spite of the CIA's protests. Most members of her committee also count to a lesser degree, along with Senator McCain (himself having endured torture as a POW in North Vietnam), though he only appears in real stock news footage.
  • Spiritual Antithesis: to Zero Dark Thirty. Both fact-based procedurals that take diametrically opposite views on torture.
  • Take That!: Zero Dark Thirty and 24 are both portrayed as media glorifying the use of torture.
  • Torture Is Ineffective: The movie makes the point that not only does torture not work, it also makes it harder to prosecute the suspects who are submitted to torture due to the illegality of the practice, along with damaging the US's global position (as someone points out, captured American personnel are at greater risk for being tortured themselves if captured when their government is known to do the same).