How to transform a 6,700-page Congressional report into a gripping, suspenseful drama is what the independent filmmaker Scott Z. Burns achieved with his new film, The Report.
The film, produced by Amazon and released last month, received a scathing denunciation from US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who was CIA boss during the period portrayed in the film. He called it fiction. Or rather he called the programme of CIA interrogation and torture depicted in the 6,700-page report a fiction.
But Pompeo’s remarks were dismissed by Burns whose film (which he wrote and directed) reveals some of the most horrifying and unforgivable moments in recent American history. It’s the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attack on New York’s Twin Towers.
Fears of a subsequent attack led to the eventual detention and torture of countless suspects by the CIA.
It also led to a comprehensive investigation and report of that previously covert torture programme. The report would never have seen the light of day if not for the intense seven-year effort by Daniel Jones (Adam Driver), a Senate staffer who worked for the California Senator Diane Feinstein (played by Annette Bening).
The film centres on Jones who accepts Feinstein’s challenge to read, digest and synthesise that huge report into 600 pages which were even-handed yet meticulous in their accurate summary of all the documents that describe the origin, evolution and unaccountable deeds of cruelty, including waterboarding, that the CIA endorsed.
The 600-page synopsis was still too long for Congress and the American people to digest, so Jones ultimately had to hone it down to 20 points.
That the torture programme was real is irrefutable. Anyone who’s seen photographs of detainees taken at Abu Ghraib prison can testify to that.
But what hadn’t been commonly known previously was the cover-up and how hard the CIA fought so the facts would never be revealed.
If Jones hadn’t been so brilliant, unrelenting and tenacious about having the truth exposed, the public would probably never have known how truly shocking the programme was.
For not only were two incompetent psychologists paid $80 million to introduce and execute the torture programme, the CIA would never have been held to account for what they did.