THE REPORT – movie review

Amazon Studios
Reviewed for & linked from Rotten Tomatoes by: Harvey Karten
Director: Scott Z. Burns
Screenwriter: Scott Z. Burns
Cast: Adam Driver, Annette Bening, Corey Stoll, Jon Hamm, Linda Powell, John Rothman
Screened at: Park Avenue, NYC, 11/7/19
Opens: November 15, 2019. Streaming on Amazon Prime Video November 29, 2019

The Report Movie Poster

The title, which has a cute redaction of the middle word (hint: the word is “torture”), covers the antics over several years during the current century of CIA operatives assigned to get confessions and information from alleged terrorists. The agency wants especially to find out the dates and times and locations of the next attack. The goal is prevent another 9/11, the only foreign attack on our soil since Pearl Harbor.

The Senate investigation committee under Dianne Feinstein (Annete Bening), who relies on special investigator Daniel Jones (Adam Driver), seeks to know two things. 1) Are the CIA interrogators of suspected terrorists using methods that are immoral, that go against America’s stated traditional values? 2) More important, are the interrogators getting valid information that could lead to the capture of terror leaders like Osama bin Laden and could allow the U.S. to thwart future attacks within the United States? The answer, as known now by anybody with the slightest interest in following politics, is “yes” to the first, and a resounding “no” to the second question.

This is a serious movie, one with nary a smidgen of humor. It is needed to educate the public, now regularly taken for a ride by the White House which pretends it is acting in the interests of the people, but it is likely that the core audience will already be familiar with just about everything that emerges. Though “The Report” is a dramatization, which is usually the kind of treatment that is more exciting and hard-hitting than a documentary, just think of what Michael Moore could have done with this kind of subject matter.

There is limited archival film, briefly showing waterboarding, involving throwing a towels around the face of a prisoner and pouring water through the towel giving the suspected terrorist not just the feeling of drowning but actually drowning himself. Another brief shot of rectal hydration that could have you swear off enemas forever features a prisoner on his back, water thrust as threw a fire hose into his anus. Yet another hapless victim is naked, hanging by a wall, while other individuals are being sleep-deprived thanks to heavy metal blasted into the room more loudly than anything you have ever heard in the multiplex.

Writer-director Scott Z. Burns has supplied us with more entertaining scripts, principally “The Bourne Ultimatum” and “The Informant!” but also had produced “An Inconvenient Truth,” which bears at least tangential similarities to “The Report” in advising about global warming and environmental dangers. Anchoring the role of investigator under Senator Dianne Feinstein looking into the secret goings-on of the CIA’s use of enhanced interrogation (a euphemism for torture), Driver’s character, Daniel Jones, works tirelessly for several years putting his nose into buried secrets that in a spy movie would lead to his assassination.

Annette Bening is dolled up to look at least a passable variation of Senator Feinstein, never going overboard with emotions, contrasted against Adam Driver’s barely controlled rage that might make you think that real fireworks will start from him that will turn this into an action thriller.

Ultimately a tells-all report of almost seven thousand pages clears a Senate committee, most Republicans voting to keep it secret and even suggesting that a mere leak of this damning information would be treasonous. Perhaps those of us who believe Edward Snowden to be a hero would be most in favor of releasing the full report without redactions, while those who condemn Snowden might like the nefarious CIA activities to remain secret.

“The (partially redacted) Official Senate Report on CIA Torture” can be had by anyone for $12.99 on Amazon, the company that is now distributing the film. Additionally you can watch the movie on Amazon Prime Video beginning November 29.

118 minutes. © 2019 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B
Acting – B
Technical – B
Overall – B

JIHADISTS – movie review

JIHADISTS (Salafistes)

Cinema Libre
Reviewed for & by: Harvey Karten
Director: Lemine Ould M. Salem, François Margolin
Screenwriter: Lemine Ould M. Salem, François Margolin
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 1/6/19
Opens: January 25, 2019 in New York’s Cinema Village



“Jihadists” aka the French title “Salafistes,” contains words perhaps more alarming than anything our President has said, even more controversial than Rashida Tlaib’s locker room word describing her plans for taking on the POTUS. In fact the movie was temporarily banned…not in Boston, not in Saudi Arabia, not in North Korea or Iran, but in…France. During its brief 75 minutes’ running time, you will be accosted by words that will make you shudder, encourage you to shelter your small children, and, if you live in New York to dig yourself a bomb shelter, or else using the Number 1 line at 191st Street as though 180 feet of earth can protect you. Sad to say, not even that station will shield you from the ire of people who want nothing more than to kill you merely because you don’t think like them. These terrible folks called by the French Salafistes will frighten you more than Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees ever did, because people like them could be a real problem for you, unlike the creeps that any Stephen King novel could imagine.

After agreeing to cut some of the scenes that went too far over the top—such as images of a police officer killed in France—the French Ministry of Culture lifted the ban giving it a rating of Interdit au moins de 18 ans. Still, the film opened in only two Paris theaters.

In answer to those of the French Culture Ministry who wonder whether this film is an apologia, or defense, of ISIS ideology, truth to tell, many people watching might be swayed to the cause because the people who are interviewed, courtesy of their bedfellows with expensive cameras, appear normal. They don’t have horns coming out of their head and if they have tails, they keep them well hidden. They do not sound like firebrands, nothing like the Hitler who depended on ranting and raving, but instead they explain their positions calmly, as though implying that they would be perfectly willing to debate the opposite side—but as equals. This would be like allowing a debate between those who believe the world is flat and those think otherwise, putting both on the same pedestal.

The assemblage of films has been edited by François Margolin, obviously French, and Lemine Ould M. Salem who is from Mauritania. Margolin is the only talking head that takes us outside of the milieu, sitting calmly with a jacket overlaying an unbuttoned shirt, describing why he chose to do this project, which is to educate the rest of us to what may be ahead especially here in the West. Subject wise, the material has been covered before and may be available on the Internet, courtesy of Isis members who have knocked out professional, Hollywood-style propaganda not unlike what Leni Reifenstahl did with financing from the Nazi Party. Her “Triumph of the Will” and “Olympia,” are considering two of the most effective films of their kind.

Specifically “Jihadists” deals with the Sunni Islam extreme sect of Salafis, the spokesmen—all men by the way—lecturing us heathens and infidels without a smile or laugh on their faces. And that’s a good thing because if they came across as entertainers they could influence far more people than they have done to date. We see one guy whose hand is amputated for stealing, and it’s the right hand at that. Presumably only lefties could snatch wallets after that. Two homosexuals are tossed from the roof, the first one seen in slow motion, because their “crime offends God” and makes them “no better than animals.” In one unexplained strip of film, a couple of jihadists drive by in their car gunning down people with automatic weapons, which takes road rage to a somewhat higher peak. (Why they did this is not explained, so we may assume they were having sport as they had with the animals they machine-gunned from an aircraft in the opening scene.)

The countries exhibited include Afghanistan, Syria, Tunisia and Mali, in that last case focusing on sharia law in fabled city of Timbuktu, liberated by the French in 2013. During the rule of jihadists—who want their own state carved largely out of Syria and Iraq—two morals police warn women trying to sell their trinkets and foods to cover their faces completely.

H.G. Wells said that the human condition is a race between education and catastrophe. Without sufficient learning, not so much of facts but the ability to reason, even we in the United States could be electing politicians whose actions could be disastrous. Perhaps even highly educated people watch “Jihadists” and are tempted to say, “Hmmm, these fellas make some good points” but soon enough wake up from the nightmare to realize “How could we have ever thought that?” Imagine what men and women without sufficient reasoning power would think when they hear the arguments spouted by these clownish but highly toxic people! Happily, this fear-inducing picture ends with a final scene of an elderly gentleman smoking his pipe despite criticism from a passing ideologue. He demanded and received the return of what gives him pleasure saying that his health is not anybody else’s business. He got it back and defiantly exhales a huge puff for the camera.

The film is in French, English, Arabic and Bambara with the subtitles in white—those subtitles clashing with scenes involving people with white shirts. A large part of the cinema world still doesn’t get it: foreign language movies need bold print preferably in a strong color like yellow.

75 minutes. © 2019 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B+
Acting – B+
Technical – A-
Overall – B+