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The Report details the struggle behind publishing the CIA torture report


directed by Scott Z Burns

Scott Z Burns' new movie is a retelling of how researcher Daniel Jones came to prove unequivocally that the CIA used torture as a weapon in its pursuit of the War on Terror.

It took five years of working stolidly in a tomb-like bunker, deprived of sunlight and personal life, for researcher Daniel Jones to prove unequivocally that the CIA, that most nefarious of US institutions, used torture as a weapon in its pursuit of the War on Terror.

The Report is an indignant retelling of how Jones (Adam Driver) came to write his 6700-page history of the agency’s ghoulishly named “enhanced interrogation” programme. And although it may feel uncomfortable to be entertained by such a serious and important story, the film is undoubtedly exciting. Writer/director Scott Z Burns takes clear inspiration from the conspiracy thrillers of the 70s (Three Days of the Condor, Marathon Man), wielding the ploys and tricks of detective noir, and the always-excellent Driver is an impassioned guide.

Although The Report boldly spares no criticism of Bush or Obama administration officials – and even points a finger at obfuscatory propaganda such as Zero Dark Thirty – its argument is not whether torture, as a first principle, is morally wrong and inherently reprehensible, but whether it “worked”. Thus, those who were abused and violated for no reason are little more than props in re-enactments.

The film nevertheless carries a contemporary urgency: Jones’ full and unredacted report has not yet been released and, above all, Gina Haspel, one of those agents accused of committing and covering up torture, is now the head of the CIA.



Video: Rapid Trailer

This article was first published in the November 23, 2019 issue of the New Zealand Listener.