The Whistleblower (2011)

© 20th Century Fox. All Rights Reserved.
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Released:  Friday, August 5, 2011  
Length:  112 minutes
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Genre: Drama/Suspense
Rating: The Whistleblower is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of AmericaUnder 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.


The Whistleblower © 20th Century Fox. All Rights Reserved.
Based on a true story, Whistleblower chronicles the trials of a female cop from Nebraska who serves as a peacekeeper in post-war Bosnia and exposes a United Nations cover-up of a sex trafficking scandal.

Kondracki and Ellis Kirwin wrote the film, which will shoot in Budapest. The pair based the screenplay on the story of Kathryn Bolkovac, who traveled to Bosnia in 1999 as a U.N. peacekeeper.

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The Whistleblower Blu-ray Review

The Whistleblower is a film whose first act is such a mishmash of re-hashed scenes and clunky exposition that it's a little surprising how engaged we are by its end. It stars Rachel Weisz, which is reason enough to see it, and it is (we are told in the opening title) "inspired by actual events," which is reason enough to hesitate. But it is a film that rewards patience; director Larysa Kondracki gains confidence and force steadily throughout the film, and comes up with a pleasing and potent investigative thriller.

The primary problem with those early stretches is that Kondracki and co-writer Ellis Kirwan try to smash in so much set-up information that the scenes end up short and sorely short on nuance. We meet Kathryn Bolkovac (Weisz), a Nebraska cop and divorced mother whose daughter is moving (with her dad) to Georgia. Kathy is trying her best, but can't make the move with her; desperate for money, she ends up taking a lucrative job working for a private contractor supplying UN peacekeeping personnel in Bosnia (the film is set in 1999). She moves quickly through the ranks, but stumbles into something very big and very bad: a sex trafficking ring that is not only ignored by her fellow contractors, but might even involve them.

The process of meeting her, grasping her motivations, and getting her into place amount to a lot of waiting; the side plot of her romance (with a married man) is mostly a distraction, one that feels like it was left in primarily so that no one could accuse them of whitewashing the character by leaving it out. Throughout the first half or so, Kondracki works in a jittery, fast style that aims (and frequently succeeds) to help us overlook the somewhat hurried storytelling.

But the picture starts to really, honestly work in a stomach-churning scene of Kathy exploring the bar (or, more accurately, the hidden dungeon inside it) where a prostitution ring has just been busted up--but probably not. The atmospheric use of light and shadow, and the horror of what she discovers there subsequently propel the picture, which proceeds to gather force and energy as it goes.

And even in the less certain first half, it is impossible to overstate the value of Weisz's performance--her face, specifically, which carries the weight and shock of all that she sees and uncovers. You can see her thinking at every moment, as well as filling in the subtext and subtlety that is sometimes lacking. Her character--and her performance--gets angrier as the story progresses and so does the movie. All are better for it.

Supporting performances are sharp--Vanessa Redgrave hustles into the movie and just gets right to it (in that wonderful way that few actors do), and David Straithairn, though somewhat underused, gives another of those wonderful performances where he tells you everything and nothing, simultaneously. The score is about as subtle as a crowbar to the head, but it works; the resolution, while relying on a mighty wheezy device, is altogether satisfying.

On Blu-ray this dark the film looks fantastic, especially during the previous mentioned scenes it helps to enhance their gritty and horrific reality. As for special features, there is only one which chronicles the real life of Kathryn Bolkovac.  When all is said and done however The Whistleblower is smooth and competent if a little shallow, but tells a powerful story, and providing a welcome showcase for one of our better actors.


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The Whistleblower images © 20th Century Fox. All Rights Reserved.