The Whistleblower | Laryssa Kondracki, 2011
There are some stories that happen in real life that are so terrible that you can’t help but think that there is no way any human being could have thought of them for fiction. And yet, we live in a world full of these. We live in a world where armies run countries and they would let their people die before allowing them to get help from other countries. We live in a world where a peaceful protest is turned into a riot that last for days and causes tons of damage because some idiot hoodlum thought it would be fun. One of the most shocking and unbelievable stories of them all is the one didn’t involve a clearly evil government or stupid teenagers. It involved none other than the United Nations Organization, whose goal is to promote world peace, and a divorced policeman from Nebraska, and how she blew the whistle on one of the most disturbing cases that has seen our world in the last few decades.
The Whistleblower follows Kathryn Bolkovac (Rachel Weiz), the aforementioned cop. She is dedicated to her job, and as a result her family has drifted away from her. In an attempt to make money to be closer to them, she joins a UN mission contracted by a private security office called Democra, to act as peacekeeper in Bosnia. Right away she learns that she is more experienced than just about everyone else there because no experience is really needed to join. Her skills as a cop really start to make a change, which earns her a higher position in only a few months. But in her position as the new head of the department of Gender affairs, she discovers that something very wrong is going on. She finds out that local bars that specialize in sex trafficking are paying off UN officers to let them continue their business. She does some digging and finds out that not only one officer is involved, but also the trail leads to the top, to the UN itself. And so she risks her career and her life to bring the women affected by this to justice.
I must outright say that this story deserved a much better film. The script is overwrought and not very subtle. Also, the direction is extremely heavy handed, which accounts for the CSI-ish aesthetic, the distracting score, and lack of tension. There are some moments of tension, but the story and not the director herself create them. When it is up to the director to make us feel what the main character is feeling, she didn’t really do anything visually to accomplish this. Making everything look ugly and gritty does not make up for filmmaking that somehow can be both over-the-top and lazy.
With that said, I will give this film a slight pass for three reasons. The first one is the power of the story. I honestly hadn’t heard of it and it made me mad. I can’t believe that in today’s world, where we are technologically advanced and stuff like that people are still this mentally medieval, and to think the U.N. let these people get away with this crime is unbelievable.
The second thing is Rachel Weiz’s performance. Because of the bad filmmaking she doesn’t shine as much as she should given that she is giving it her all playing this character. It’s a raw and engaging performance that should get awards attention but likely won’t because the film is not up to the standards of the performance and the small distributor won’t make enough money to support her. Still, it doesn’t take away from the fact that she gives one of the best performances of the year. Vanessa Redgrave and David Strathairn are also good, and Monica Bellucci just reads a few lines and looks hot, despite playing an aging diplomat, but the show belongs to Weiz. Who would have though that the actress that made a name for herself playing Brendan Frasier’s wife in The Mummy would end up being one of the finest actresses working today.
The third reason is that I always tend to like these David vs. Goliath stories unless they are truly terrible.
The Whishtleblower should have been better so that it would reach a wider audience with this important story. But as it stands, it is a film with a great story that is just a showcase for Weiz’s talent.