Director/writer: Scott Z Burn
Starring: Adam Driver, Annette Benning, Jon Hamm
Do you want the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? Director Scott z. Burn sets out to smack you in the face with what actually happens with this sobering docudrama.
Set in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, the world is in shock and people are scared. The US is reeling from the homeland attack and the government is taking a steamroller approach to making sure that America is safe once again.
Following the mysterious disappearance of tapes made of “enhanced interrogation” sessions used by the CIA with suspected terrorists, Senate staffer, Daniel Jones (Adam Driver) is tasked to run an investigation on what actually happened.
Using the written transcripts of the interrogations, Jones and his small team set out to painstakingly comb through 6.3 million pages of documents to try and work out what went on behind closed doors.
Piece by piece, the puzzle comes together. Jones begins to uncover the identities of the detainees and delves into the treatment they faced from US officials. Flashbacks take the audience to the decision making behind the implementation of enhanced interrogation techniques (EIT). It gives the sense that the people in power were making extreme decisions to try and regain control of national security. The implementation of EIT was an emotional experiment that desperate officials hoped would work.
119 prisoners were repeatedly tortured for information- stripped naked, beaten, sleep deprived, water-boarded- and yet officials “got nothing but lies”. After 119 brutal attempts to prove the legitimacy of EIT, none worked. It becomes apparent that not only was EIT ineffective but it also breached international laws on torture.
Working for the Senate Intelligence Committee, Jones is obliged to report his findings to Senator Dianne Feinstein (Annette Benning). When he reveals that one prisoner was water-boarded 183 without giving up any information, the penny drops for Feinstein as she responds “if it works, why do they need to do it 183 times?”
Working tirelessly, Jones becomes consumed with blowing the whistle on what has happened. However the road to integrity is marred by blood and holding people accountable becomes the new dilemma. The 7000 page ‘Torture’ report that Jones seeks to make public opens up a messy battle between the White House and Congress that almost manages to consume him in the process.
Definitively eye opening, this film is busy with information. It also explores the psyche of the American policy makers in the wake of 9/11 and the pressure they felt in protecting their nation. It puts a human face to the people enacting the policies and highlights the fine line between justice and revenge.
A hard hitting film that leaves you contemplating the value of accountability.
Review by Hannah Parslow