The Whistleblower Directed by: Larysa Kondracki Cast: Rachel Weisz, Vanessa Redgrave, David Strathairn, Monica Bellucci Running Time: 1 hr 57 mins Rating: R Release Date: August 12, 2011
PLOT: The true story of Kathryn Bolkovac (Weisz), a former Nebraska cop who worked for the U.N as a peacekeeper in Bosnia and uncovered a sex trafficking ring involving U.N employees.
WHO'S IT FOR? This is for those who enjoy dramas driven entirely by drama, and also like a little politics with their tension.
EXPECTATIONS: I hadn't heard much about this movie, but I assumed that it might be something like last year's Fair Game, which I didn't like as much as Jeff Bayer did. I was hoping whatever "whistle-blowing" was happening would be preceded by a tense story.
Rachel Weisz as Kathryn Bolkovac: Weisz delivers a very good performance here, portraying a brave life in a re-telling that is inspired and very driven. The Academy Award-winner carries the movie on her shoulders and shows her strength even more as she works with a wide range of palpable emotions throughout. A scene in which she tries to retrieve a couple girls that she has grown close but in which they are too intimidated by their “owners” to move, is especially heartbreaking. Guided by such a directly focused script, her performance is a straight shot to one of the more memorable female performances we’ve seen so far this year. Score: 8
Vanessa Redgrave as Madeleine Rees: She's a woman that Bolkovac feels she can trust because she’s an official of the Human Rights Commission. Rees is also one of the few people a part of this scenario that seem to care about the safety of Weisz’s character. She provides as much help as she can, even though this is to the dismay of her superiors in the United Nations. Score: 7
Monica Bellucci as Laura Levin: The underestimated dramatic actress Bellucci plays Laura Levin, a person who provides clear opposition to Bolkovac’s cause, but one with law actually on her side. She’s an extremely difficult official who refuses to go around the already unjust laws that are in place. Meaning, because one of the girls involved in the sex trafficking does not have a passport, she can’t provide any help for her. Or when a girl’s mother travels hundreds of miles to retrieve her daughter, Levin’s character doesn’t help her. However beautiful Bellucci might be, she succeeds in infuriating her audience with her ugly presentation of black-and-white justice. Score: 6
David Strathairn as Peter Ward: Strathairn, no stranger to dialogue-driven thrillers plays a friend of Bolkovac’s out in Bosnia. Adding tension to the movie with his mystery, he’s another person of power involved in this investigation who might or might not be working against Bolkovac. Score: 7
TALKING: This movie is driven by dialogue, and yes, it's good stuff. The writers create a tangible realism with the characters by giving them a whole slew of believable interactions. Score: 7
SIGHTS: With its competence, the movie doesn’t bog its audience down in an unnecessary barrage of horrific visuals. There are a couple of uneasy scenes, but they heighten the extremities of the situation, and raise the tension organically. Audiences might want to turn away during these couple of segments (which are shot tastefully), but they won’t be able to shake off the brutal realism of such moments. Score: 7
SOUNDS: The score is not a dominant part to the movie, but it does add proper emotion scenes that are either tense or sad. There are plenty of moments in which The Whistleblower lets the dialogue control the mood, and of which music takes a nice break. Score: 6
BEST SCENE: While it might be the most heartbreaking, the scene in which Bolkovac tries to retrieve the girls but can't is the best acted moment of the whole movie.
ENDING: A nice twist at the end involves Peter Ward and the theme of deception.
QUESTIONS: How much of this is true? How many Americans actually know about Kathryn Bolkovac?
REWATCHABILITY: However difficult some of its subject matter might be, it's a solid film. I could definitely watch this again in a couple of months.
Reminiscent of a taut thriller from the 1970s, The Whistleblower is a tense story with commendable performances, intelligent speed, and an important call for attention. In a summer of bloated comic book blockbusters, here’s Kathryn Bolkovac, a real American hero with no superpowers; instead she’s got wit, an extreme amount of courage, and an authentic drive for justice. No shield or hammer needed for her ass kicking.
Working with a whole horror show of a true story, The Whistleblower succeeds at telling its tale by making it concise. There’s hardly an attribute or character that doesn’t feel necessary, and the movie knows what its main focus has to be, which is Weisz’s character. The story’s tension is consistent, and its energy is always present. Its lingering theme of deception enables the movie to surprise its audience, with such surprises making us root for Kathryn and her cause even more. The Whistleblower is the type of movie that makes you feel like you need to see how it all ends or else, whether you like it or not.
Such dark moments also don’t make the overall film feel entirely depressing – while the content is certainly heavy, The Whistleblower is able to carry its dramatic weight in order to tell a real story that is optimistic, and best of all, truly heroic.
FINAL SCORE: 7/10