Often when people face a situation of extreme mayhem, a sort of metamorphosis happens from within. It changes our perception and blurs the line between what’s wrong and what’s right. There are a few insane people who do this tedious and risky job of drawing the line again and aiding the people in regaining their conscience. The Report is a story about such conscience keepers and the onerous and lonely road they traveled. Scott. Z Burns who has written and directed the film knits the absurdity of a system into an engrossing and stimulating narrative.
The Report is enriched with some powerful performances, especially by the likes of Adam Driver and Annette Bening.
Post 9/11, the US-based agencies were facing the dread and trepidation of being thrown under the bus. The high officials were facing a lot of heat. There were too many questions and not enough answers. It was a lapse of intelligence and now it was about preserving the honor anyhow. The process didn’t matter, as long as they had something to show to the public.
During this period Bruce Jessen and James Mitchell, two American psychologists came with a unique interrogation technique known as Enhanced Interrogation Technique, popularly known as EIT. This technique discarded the earlier used methods and instead relied on something known as “reverse engineering.” The principle on which it worked was creating individual assessments of detainees to create a program designed to induce debility, dependency, and dread.
In simple words, it meant to torture the detainees (and not on an accused), to derive information about terrorist attacks that were going to happen in the future, and trace the locations of the Al-Qaeda leaders. There were a lot of rumors about the program being not as effective as told by the CIA officials. There was general speculation that a lot of legal ground had been trespassed by the CIA when carrying out their “enhanced techniques”, but never a formal probe was made.
Senator Dianne Feinstein (Annette Bening), makes a committee to look into the destruction of CIA interrogation videotapes which leads to another research-oriented assessment about their EIT program. The investigation is led by Daniel. J Johns (Adam Driver), who makes revelations that no one imagined in their darkest of dreams.
Daniel Johns is thrown into a suffocating and dark cavern, with two others and millions of documents to look into. It was an intentional move to make things difficult for the investigative committee. But little did they realize that this Daniel Johns was a berserk customer. He was a workhorse who didn’t have much life apart from his job. This work was a priority for him. His report meant everything to him. And it was not only because it was his hard work but he wanted the truth to come out. He didn’t want to demean anybody. He didn’t want to gain any leverage. He was just doing his job and wanted to finish it the proper way.
When the CIA makes it almost impossible for the Senate to publish their finding, Daniel Johns goes through a sort of dilemma. For a moment he dwells on the idea of going through a back channel and getting his report out in the public domain. But he holds himself back and says “if it has to be done, it will be done the right way.“
Greatness and Priorities
On a slightly philosophical note, I have always been a believer that great things stem out from the nature of your priorities. Yes everybody wants a good life, everybody wants to sleep for 8 hours, everybody wants a vacation, everybody wants to be loved and spend some quality time with their loved ones. The work often takes a back seat and rightly so. Your identity is much more than your career and your work.
But then there comes another breed. A breed of people who forget what time it is, who forget to eat or sleep. Who when sleep also dream about how they are going to approach their work the next day. Who don’t consciously prioritize their work but it becomes so because of their erratic choices. They become adamant and stubborn. Somewhere they know why the people who once chose to be with them, ultimately had to distance themselves. But they are not apologetic for that. It’s a mind without distraction. Almost everything loses it’s significance when compared to their work. They sleep thinking about it and wake up immersed in it. Their personal life is so botched up that one would never wish that for themselves. But these are the kind of people who write history. There are some well-known personalities who belong to this breed, Daniel Johns being one of them.
Sometimes in an attempt to salvage one’s pride and take revenge, we become exactly like those whom we once hated. The CIA’s enhanced technique was not only brutal but demonic. It made your soul shiver by only thinking about it. The Chief of Staff wants to side with the CIA on this issue. He feels that the present administration did its duty by abolishing the enhanced techniques as soon as it came into power. He believes that going in the past and discrediting them was of no use. He says at least the United States is a nation where such a committee can be constituted for self-scrutiny. He says not many nations have this sort of liberty. But Senator Feinstein is adamant and says “let’s be a nation that goes ahead and is not afraid to print such a report.“
The report was given so much significance because it was for a cause greater than the bureaucracy. It went beyond politics and personal agendas. It was about facing the ugly truth and saying never again. It was about acceptance. It was about apologizing for where the system went wrong. It was about reinstating the faith of people in democracy. It was about justice.
The Report belongs to a genre I am extremely fond of. It’s an investigative drama but goes beyond that. It’s a critique of the system, the mere absurdity of it. It is about a resolute character with blinders on and the lonely journey they take.
Streaming on Prime Video, The Report is a well-researched revelation that you shouldn’t miss.
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