So what’s the problem? I found the movie to be too cool and clinical. This is a movie about an outrage, but we get little outrage generated onscreen, and thus we don’t feel it as much as we could. To a certain extent, that’s the point: it takes the coldly impassive eye of the journalist to find the truth when accusations fly, but I felt alienated.
I kept thinking of a 1995 “Law and Order” episode that covered the same topic from a similarly procedure-based standpoint, but created far more emotional impact (This episode also came out six years before these stories broke, which undercuts the movie’s claim that this investigation was the turning point in public perception)
Ultimately, the movie’s extreme commitment to procedure is both its greatest strength and biggest disadvantage. We get to see things we would usually never see in a movie:
- We get to see how the events of 9/11/01 interrupted and de-prioritized the work they were doing. Usually, these movies are decontextualized, to focus our attention on just this one story.
- We see how they pursue two legal tracks to get the suppressed documents, and both eventually succeed, even though that undercuts the drama by implying that either one track or the other was superfluous.