How a Capitol Hill staffer and a James Bond screenwriter dramatized ‘The Report’

Political Theater, Episode 101

Journalists follow Senate Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein as she leaves her office on her way to the chamber floor to speak about the CIA torture report being released by the committee on on Dec. 9, 2014. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s torture report in 2014 was a compelling episode in American history, detailing as it did the CIA’s use of so-called enhanced interrogation techniques on suspected terrorists and their lack of effectiveness. That doesn’t mean the seven-year investigation that led to the report automatically lends itself to high drama, particularly when one considers that many of those seven years were spent reading sensitive CIA documents in a windowless room. That makes the new movie “The Report” that much more of an accomplishment.

Director and screenwriter Scott Z. Burns had his work cut out for him, constructing a political thriller out of the efforts led by Intelligence Committee staffer Daniel J. Jones. Burns and Jones explained some of thinking that went into the film’s narrative, as well as the issues it explores, in the latest Political Theater podcast with CQ Roll Call senior staff writer Niels Lesniewski and me. 

Burns is no stranger to tackling complicated topics: He has been a producer on “An Inconvenient Truth” and Steven Soderbergh’s “The Laundromat,” for instance. And he knows a thing or two about writing a compelling tale, having been a screenwriter on “The Bourne Ultimatum” and the upcoming James Bond movie “No Time to Die.” And Jones? Asked if he could have imagined that one day Adam Driver, who plays Darth Vader’s grandson Kylo Ren in the Star Wars saga, would one day portray him and his efforts to glean the truth about the intelligence community’s darkest practices, he said, tongue firmly in cheek, that was always part of the plan. 

Show Notes:

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