Telluride: Scott Z. Burns' Script for 'The Report' Could Be an Awards Contender

Scott Z. Burns' political thriller The Report, a dramatization of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee's probe into the CIA's use of torture in the wake of 9/11, landed at the Telluride Film Festival on Sunday, nine months after premiering at Sundance. Screening at the Chuck Jones Theatre following a tribute to star Adam Driver (moderated by The Hollywood Reporter's Rebecca Keegan), the Amazon film went over very well and prompted widespread discussion on the gondola and elsewhere.

Burns, a highly regarded writer — he penned the Steven Soderbergh-directed films The Informant!, Contagion, Side Effects and this season's The Laundromat, and Soderbergh is a producer of The Report — had never directed a film before this one, and it is an impressive debut. The pic boasts a wonderful ensemble of actors led by Driver as Dan Jones, the tireless Senate staffer who wrote the report over a number of years, and Annette Bening, the battle-hardened U.S. senator who employs him and generally has his back.

The nonpartisan film deftly presents a true story about 21st century American politics and intelligence that spans several years, many characters and issues of great complexity, without ever dumbing things down, which is sadly a rarity these days. I can't think of many other recent examples of this, apart from two movies from similarly cerebral filmmakers: Rod Lurie's Nothing But the Truth (2008) and Doug Liman's Fair Game (2010), both of which are essentially about the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame and the ensuing fallout.

Those two films, like this one, told very important stories, but got a little lost and were ultimately overlooked by Academy members, which I fear this one may be, too — although Burns' script and whoever did Bening's hair and makeup (they nailed it) are certainly worthy of serious consideration. (Driver's performance in Marriage Story will overshadow his understated work here, and Bening probably doesn't have enough screen time to break through the noise.) Unfortunately, most Americans today, with and without Oscar votes, are so turned off by Washington, D.C., that they may have tuned out of current events, let alone events of the past.