The Report ★★★★

“You just said it yourself … The CIA knew this shit didn’t work in 1978 and it didn’t stop them from doing it again. Look we’ve been down here for two years, stranded in this basement. Nobody’s waiting for us to come out.”  Having a good memory for the worst reasoned criticisms leveled at stuff is usually a good thing, but in the case of Scott Z. Burns narrowly focused political drama it was actually pretty distracting. You see, The Report is in many ways an excellent (if not exactly exceptional) version of the film many detractors wanted Kathryn Bigelow’s oft misread masterpiece Zero Dark Thirty to be, in that is in no uncertain terms the story of the people who said no. That’s a story that absolutely demands to be told, but amid the eerily sterile DC design and lensing plus game performances from Driver and Hamm and Goldberg and Benning (as the second cinematic Dianne Feinstein in just over a decade, which has to be some kind of record) I couldn’t help but stop to recall my problem with all of the aforementioned ZDT hits. That torture was both nationally popular and horrifically widespread and so objectors could no more be the story of American culpability for it than abolitionists the story of Southern chattel slavery. Dark tells the story of how the horror of war becomes its own country and thereby steals everything from the individuals tossed into its machinery by becoming the only home they recognize. Report the story of how good citizens by being just that can force a nation to at least try and live up to its highest ideals. Both deserve our time to be sure but the latter is so much easier to live with I can’t say I’d choose it over the former.