Film Review – The Whistleblower

The Whistleblower (MA)

Directed by: Larysa Kondracki

Starring: Rachel Weisz, Monica Bellucci, David Strathairn, Vanessa Redgrave

Three and a half stars

Review by: Julian Wright

For an audience to go along with any film plot, whether it is based on truth or completely fabricated, the opening scenes are crucial in convincing the audience that this is a trip it should go on. One of the most important roles in this is the main character and whether or not we identify with him or her. An underdeveloped character could be the difference between an audience investing in the story or switching off and thinking about which household chores need to be tackled.

One misstep The Whistleblower makes is rushing the main character’s introduction. And for a film that is borne out of an existing context of harrowing injustices and political unrest, this could have been fatal. In its hurry to cut to the chase, Rachel Weisz’s Nebraska cop Kathryn Bolkovac is taken from her depressing home life to a Bosnian camp as a peacekeeper in the space of four scenes.

All we know about Kathryn is she is split from her husband, who has custody of their daughter, because she is married to her job. And we get all this information in one clunky dialogue scene between the feuding exes. Not the best way to start things off. Luckily, the story develops so compellingly and Weisz so terrific in her role that we are able to leave the bumpy start behind us and engage in the story as it unfolds.

Kathryn takes a lucrative job as a peacekeeper in Bosnia so she can later afford to move closer to her daughter. On her new duties, she successfully prosecutes a man for abusing his wife and is promoted to head a department that deals with women involved in crimes. This exposes her to the trafficking of abused and drugged young women at a local brothel passing itself off as a bar that she learns is frequented by the men she works with.

More devastating is the revelation that these men, posted to protect these women, are involved in its cover up and take financial cuts for keeping their mouths shut. The more Kathryn uncovers and the harder she pushes to bring the men behind the trafficking and the men covering it up to justice, the more danger she is in herself. Making her more desperate to catch these men is the bond she makes with Raya (Roxana Condurache) – one of the victims.

While at times difficult to watch – these women are horribly mistreated and the camera rarely shies away from it – and narrow in scope with its storytelling, it is Weisz that holds the film together and keeps us glued to the screen. The academy award wining actress turns in a commanding performance. This is Kathryn’s story and journey, so the details of the political context are sparse. More focus on this could have meant a stronger film, but the story of a woman compelled to do the right thing makes for enough drama that one is willing to see this through.

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