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Germany/Canada 2010
Directed by
Larysa Kondracki.
112 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars

The Whistleblower

Synopsis: The fact-based story of Kathryn Bolkovac (Rachel Weisz), a police officer from Lincoln, Nebraska who joined the U.N. peacekeeping mission in post-war Bosnia. While there, she uncovered a sex trafficking operation that involved not just local authorities but the peacekeepers themselves.

Although The Whistleblower has been generically described as a thriller, and it is quite a good one, its real agenda is the brutal world of sex-trafficking. Whilst films such as Lilya 4-Ever (2004), The Jammed and Eastern Promises (both 2007) have dealt with the topic in the context of organized crime, here we have an additional layer, that of institutionalized corruption. And not just that of the Bosnian police but also Bolkovac’s employers, an American private security firm, DynCorp International (renamed Democra for the film) and the U.N. itself. It is a story that will make you both angry and sad.  Not only for the girls whose lives are trampled on but also because this is the way of world.

Rachel Weisz gives a potent performances as a woman who finds herself in a situation that is well beyond her depth, yet which in some ways speaks to her need to claim her place in the world. The script by Kondracki and Eilis Kirwan only alludes to Bolkovac’s back-story but the implication is that she was a “bad mom”. Her Bosnian assignment was initially motivated by her need to get enough money together to move from Nebraska to Georgia where her ex-husband was moving with their daughter, of whom he had sole custody, and his new wife. But what are issues of personal estrangement and failed parenting in an American suburban context permute into wholesale abduction and physical abuse in a Bosnian one

Thrillers usually suffer from an excess of convenient narrative devices as the hero/heroine battles the forces of evil however, whilst generating real tension and a sense of danger, advisedly, Kondracki keeps things grounded in the believable. Weisz is not called on to kick-box her way through scrums of goons or scale the sides of multi-story buildings and if the film abbreviates and buffs the facts in rather conventional ways this is a justifiable strategy insofar as it gives it a broader audience appeal (potentially at least - it failed commercially in America and will probably only have a short run here). Weisz very much encapsulates this duality - she has movie star good looks but she makes her character’s professional commitment convincing, particularly considering the testosterone-fueled environment in which she had to work whilst at the same time investing her with a rueful intensity. Monica Bellucci as a hard-hearted U.N. bureaucrat was going a little far however and even Vanessa Redgrave as Bolkovac’s mentor I found an unnecessarily glamorous distraction.

In the final analysis, however, the true value of The Whistleblower lies in what it exposes. As the end titles tell us, an estimated 2.5 million girls and women are the involved in sex trafficking world-wide and business is booming. The sad reality is that this film isn’t going to change a thing.  




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