The Report was the first feature directed by writer Scott Z. Burns. It's based on the true story of Daniel Jones (Adam Driver), who spent years working as an investigator under Dianne Feinstein (Annette Bening) to dig up facts about the CIA's use of torture in the post-9/11 world. Burns's film is as dogged and determined as Jones must have been, trying to keep his movie under two hours while still being fair to a story that covers a decade's worth of events.
Burns has said he originally planned something in the vein of Dr. Strangelove, but once details of Jones's report became known, Burns decided satire had no place in his story. So The Report is a step-by-step, straightforward depiction of Jones at work. The movie is as direct as its title. We get a feel for the endless hours Jones worked, and how frustrated he became bumping up against authorities of all stripes. The film is informative, but it rarely seems to take advantage of itself as a film. It's as if, once Burns jettisoned the Strangelove angle, he decided his movie must be humorless. It's an understandable take, given the horrors of the CIA, but it drains The Report of much of its drama. It is not sensationalized, which earns our respect, but the movie feels a bit like eating vegetables because they are good for us.
Adam Driver gives the film what emotion it allows. Annette Bening looks like Feinstein, but her part is underwritten. Neither can raise The Report above the informational presentation that Burns apparently wanted. The Report is indeed like vegetables ... it's good for us, it's worth seeing, but it falls short as anything more than that.