by James Mottram

“I want to be the country that not only writes the report but releases it,” says former US Senate staffer Daniel Jones. “The treatment of detainees, prisoners of war, treating them well is an American ideal. It started with George Washington during the revolutionary war, he was like ‘we know that when the British catch our prisoners, they torture them. They don’t feed them, they treat them poorly. That’s not who we are. We’re starting a new nation.’

“During the civil war, there was something called The Lieber Code, which was basically the North telling the South, this is how we’re going to treat prisoners. And then you have WW1, which was a complete shit show. Then you had the Geneva Conventions, which the U.S. played a major role in. World War II, when our prisoners were being tortured in Japan and Germany, there were concentration camps, but the POWs from Japan and Germany were going to small towns in America and working on farms. They had musical instruments, they had art shows. And when it came out, of course, it was, ‘why are we treating their prisoners of war so well here, while ours are being tortured?’ And the answer is, because we’re not Nazis.

“And then you have the Vietnam war with Vietcong, they were not state actors, but yet we gave them Geneva protections. The history of our country is about living up to a higher ideal, and this was playing at the most base level. And then to make it even worse, it was massively ineffective.”

Daniel Jones

The Report of the title that Daniel Jones put together was a damning one of the CIA’s post 9/11 Detention and Interrogation Program, which he admits was big news for around 48 hours. And then he was contacted by filmmaker Scott Z. Burns (best known for his Soderbergh screenplays, The Informant, Contagion, Side Effects and most recently, The Laundromat).

Scott was one of the people in the creative community that called, and it was clear that he had read the report. Believe it or not, with all the briefings I’ve done for reporters and everyone else, tons of people are like, ‘so tell me what’s in the report.’  Scott was like, ‘I think there’s a discrepancy between footnote 515 and a footnote 1205, and can you just explain that?’

“How many people read a government report?” asks Jones rhetorically. “And when you think of what the cultural impact of films are, narrative storytelling, it reaches just so many more people. And that’s how Scott kind of sold me. This film will have a much larger impact and it will reach more people. Senator Feinstein [played by Annette Bening in the film] always said, the reason we did the report and released it, was to make sure that this never happens again. And to ensure that it never happens again, people have to know that narrative and know the lessons. And while the Senate report reached some people, the film will dwarf that.”

Playing Jones in the film is one of the most exciting actors in the world right now, Adam Driver. “What’s amazing is, first of all, Scott was able to take a seven year journey, and put it into a 125 page script,” says Jones about the journey taken in the film. “And then Adam had to convey on his face, those seven years; and then it was shot out of order! And when you think about the challenges of all that, it’s really incredible, and it’s a testament to Scott’s script and to Adam’s ability to convey a moment just by his actions, not his words.”

And was Jones ever worried that the whole thing would be ‘Hollywoodised’? “I had no stake in this, basically what I got in return was trust, which was, ‘we’re not going to put anything in there that’s silly.’ I think Scott and Jennifer [producer, Fox] and Steven [producer, Soderbergh] really to their core, wanted to tell this story right and accurately. And they were not the people who were going to put in a car chase.”

The Report is in cinemas November 14, 2019


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