HOW long does it take after conflict’s end to make a landmark war movie? The Vietnam War, for example, ended in 1975 and just three years later came The Deer Hunter, followed by Apocalypse Now in 1979. Or, for the definitive political insider’s story, did it have to wait for The Fog of War, Errol Morris’s 2003 unforgettable portrait of Robert McNamara?

With the recent Official Secrets, and now The Report, both based on true stories, it looks like 2019 will go down as the year when cinema started to get to grips with the post 9/11 world and the so-called war on terror. Official Secrets was about a British whistleblower, The Report is centred around a Senate staffer investigating the CIA’s detention and interrogation programme.

Adam Driver plays Daniel Jones, the researcher in question. The movie begins with Jones meeting a lawyer, never a good position for a real life protagonist to be in, but for the purposes of getting a movie off to an intriguing start it works very well. From here, writer-director Scott Z Burns (The Bourne Ultimatum, The Informant!) loops back.

The New York Times has run a story about the CIA’s destruction of “torture tapes”, videos showing the interrogation of al-Qaeda suspects. The Senate Intelligence Committee, chaired by Dianne Feinstein (played by Annette Bening) begins an investigation with Jones in the lead. So begins a probe that would take over Jones’s life.

The central finding about the programme was brutally simple: torture did not work. But who ordered it, who benefited financially, who covered it up, and how much did the White House know? All of this is the stuff of Burns’s movie and what a riveting story he tells.

He shows in flashback the techniques in action, including waterboarding, which makes for harrowing viewing. For the most part, however, The Report is the story of email trails, researchers spending hours staring at computer screens, and meetings. There is only so much actors and director can do to make such action look interesting. After that, it is all down to the dialogue.

Burns’s verbal to-ing and fro-ing is Sorkinesque in its density, with lots of acronyms and jargon sprayed around. It could have been near impenetrable, but everything comes across loud and clear. The words are given room to breathe, ditto the performances. Driver is excellent as the laid back Jones, principled but never pious, while Bening relishes the chance to play Feinstein, who looks as soft as cookie dough but is as tough as a Senate gavel, and Jon Hamm makes the most of playing a cautious lieutenant for the Obama White House.