Buckle up political thriller addicts. Atlantic-spanning biopics The Report and Official Secrets lay bare devastating assaults on the truth in the aftermath of 9/11.
Adam Driver and Keira Knightley deliver some of their best work to date in the biting movies, which are well worth the price of a ticket.
From Girls to running the world, Driver’s on fire right now.
About to unleash the dark side as baddie Kylo Ren in grand finale Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, he’s also igniting Oscars buzz alongside Scarlett Johansson in bittersweet Netflix triumph Marriage Story.
While those two grab most headlines – the least said about zombie dud The Dead Don’t Die the better – his understated delivery in The Report is arguably better.
Playing Daniel Jones, the real-life political staffer of former Intelligence Committee chair Senator Dianne Feinstein (an also brilliant Annette Bening), Driver gives an incredible turn that builds and builds to pack a mighty wallop.
Doggedly determined, Jones worked tirelessly in the face of significant resistance to compile a 6700-word report on the CIA’s use, and cover-up of, brutal torture under the Bush administration.
A Herculean mission consuming seven years, The Report exhilaratingly details his rapidly dwindling team’s exhaustive trawl through thousands of CIA emails, with no direct access to interviewees.
While that might sound stuffy, it zings with righteous fury served ice cold.
Methodically taking apart the case for torture, hammering home both the moral abdication and the total failure to uncover valuable intelligence, The Report grips from the get go.
It wasn’t just Bush pushing back.
Mad Men star Jon Hamm plays Denis McDonough, President Obama’s chief of staff who is just as keen to silence criticism.
The report has never been released in full, although a 500-page summary appeared in 2014.
“It shows that the CIA’s action a decade ago are a stain on our values and on our history,” Feinstein said at the time.
“The release of this 500-page summary cannot remove that stain.
“But it can, and does, say to our people and the world that America is big enough to admit when it’s wrong and confident enough to learn from its mistakes.”
If only that were true. Driver and Bening are an indomitable duo, and writer/director Scott Z Burns – who also penned Steven Soderbergh’s Panama Papers biopic The Laundromat – clearly nods at the parlous state of global politics today.
Official Secrets does likewise.
Directed by Gavin Hood (Eye in the Sky) co-writing alongside husband and wife duo Gregory and Sara Bernstein, it’s grippingly adapted from tell-all book The Spy Who Tried to Stop a War.
Often wishy-washy, Knightley comes into her own as unassuming British intelligence officer Katharine Gunn.
Far from a crusader, the real-life whistle-blower was thrown headlong into a terrible moral conundrum on receiving a US-directed email brazenly calling on UK intelligence officers to assist coercing smaller members of the UN to support invading Iraq.
Gunn is devastated by this revelation, but her gut instinct to leak is tempered by tenuous visa situation of her refugee husband (Adam Bakri, Omar, Slam).
As with Driver, Knightley has sensational back up here, including Ralph Fiennes as a human rights lawyer and Matt Smith, Matthew Goode and Rhys Ifans as investigative journalists.
And without spoiling too much, if you think the cries of war criminal lobbed at Blair, Bush and Howard are lefty hysteria, the powerful courtroom finale is a timely reminder where that accusation comes from.
Jaw-dropping doesn’t cover it.
The perfect double bill in cinemas now, The Report and Official Secrets see the truth burn bright.