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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Report is a fact-based drama about the efforts to investigate the CIA's use of torture to question suspects after 9/11. A few sequences demonstrate the kinds of torture used, including waterboarding, mock burials, and hands being chained to the floor. There are also scenes of shouting, kicking, etc. Male prisoners are shown naked, including bare bottoms. Language is fairly strong, with uses of "f--k," "s--t," "bulls--t," and more. Adults drink socially. The film starts off a bit dry, and it's never very dynamic, but it manages to work up enough outrage and suspense to make it worth a look for mature viewers. Adam Driver and Annette Bening co-star.
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What's the story?
In THE REPORT, staffer Daniel J. Jones (Adam Driver), working under Senator Dianne Feinstein (Annette Bening), is assigned to head an investigation into the CIA's use of "enhanced interrogation techniques" on terrorist suspects following September 11, 2001. After years of relentless study, Jones confirms that these techniques were nothing short of brutal torture -- and that they resulted in no useful information whatsoever. He also finds that the CIA was deliberately misrepresenting data. Jones compiles a massive report, but when it comes time to publish it, he finds that the CIA isn't particularly eager to have the information out in the open.
Is it any good?
Essentially a movie about people in suits sitting in offices, staring at computers, and talking to each other, this fact-based drama somehow eventually gathers up enough tension to click. Written and directed by Scott Z. Burns, who previously wrote The Informant!, Contagion, and Side Effects, The Report opens tentatively, with a flash-forward to show that Jones may be in serious trouble, before heading back to its natural beginning, a rather static series of scenes in which everything is introduced -- including Jones' depressing, windowless office -- and the rules are laid down.
But at some point during the movie's two hours, it starts to crackle. Perhaps it's because of the many shockingly awful events we hear about in the news or because of righteous anger over the blatant wrongdoing. Perhaps it's the thrill of seeing Jones getting a much-needed breakthrough: a secret, Deep Throat-style meeting with a man (Tim Blake Nelson), sick with guilt and terrified, who worked for the program as a "doctor." Or perhaps it's Driver's performance, which is obsessive and creates a forward momentum. Certainly Bening's performance as Senator Feinstein is a skillful treat. In the end, The Report is worth seeing for anyone who's interested in true political stories.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about The Report's depiction of violence and torture. How did these scenes affect you? How do they compare to fantasy/action violence?
How do characters justify the use of torture here? Do their arguments make sense? Are there other times in history when people have talked themselves into believing that something wrong is actually good?
How accurate do you think the movie is compared to what actually happened? Why might filmmakers choose to change the facts in a film based on actual events?
Is Daniel J. Jones a role model for the work that he did? What are his flaws? What did he give up to perform this work?
- In theaters: November 15, 2019
- On DVD or streaming: November 28, 2019
- Cast: Adam Driver, Annette Bening, Jon Hamm
- Director: Scott Z. Burns
- Studio: Amazon Studios
- Genre: Drama
- Character strengths: Perseverance
- Run time: 119 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: some scenes of inhumane treatment and torture, and language
- Last updated: April 17, 2020
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