Published Aug 11, 2011More a straightforward political issue parable than an actual film, Larysa Kondracki's The Whistleblower tackles, simplifies and makes linear a true story of UN corruption and diplomatic manipulation in post-war Bosnia. And despite the actual significance of the subject matter and the near impossibility of not having some sort of emotional reaction to the horrors of underage sex-trafficking, it's difficult to overlook some of the overly simplistic characterizations and clumsy framing.
Fortunately, Rachel Weisz injects the perfect balance of industrious determination and restrained femininity into a potentially idealized depiction of down-on-her-luck Nebraska police officer Kathryn Bolkovac, whose story frames the moralizing. Having been recently divorced and stuck in a work post far from her daughter, she takes an assignment as a peacekeeper in Bosnia, hoping to make enough money to rectify the situation.
Since this particular set-up is the standard cliché of a reluctant male hero, it's clear that gender politics are on the agenda from the get go. Resultantly, it isn't long before Bolkovac encounters two horribly beaten young girls whose escape from a sex-trafficking ring leads our bewildered protagonist down a rabbit hole of corruption, extortion and the exploitation of bureaucratic nonsense.
While the violence depicted is typically off camera, conveyed through prop proximity and facial reactions, some of the implications and still photography of beer bottles and lead pipes shoved in provocative regions are exceedingly unsettling. Very few moments provide levity, making the viewing experience anxiety inducing and intense.
Following Weisz's character through the web of corruption is engaging, as new twists and horrors are revealed at every turn. But whenever a new character is introduced or a new problem arises, they're simplified to an almost cartoonish degree, detracting from the overall effect of a powerful story. For example, Bellucci's repatriation manager character literally just recites variations on the same theme repeatedly, indicating that she can't do anything without passports or paperwork, never deviating from her cipher role.
It's a shame that slightly more care wasn't put into these periphery factors and that the actual craftsmanship lacks any real vision, as the acting and the actual story could easily make for a powerful and memorable cinematic experience. (eOne)