Editor's note: “The Whistleblower” just achieved a theatrical run in the United States. It's on a limited run and is not playing in the Fort Smith area.
review by Peter Lewis
Certain films are too big, too broad, too messy for the big screen. The story can't be held within the confines of the silver screen. Reality stretches the edges, bulging out from itself and spilling over into something more, something disturbing for its inherently brazen truthfulness. These “message films” exist beyond themselves, more reproach than narrative.
“The Whistleblower” is thus defined.
The movie seeks to detail the events surrounding a human trafficking ring that grew up around the U.N. Mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina in the mid 1990s and the role of the female police officer cum U.N. gender affairs officer that uncovered the depravity.
Debuting at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival, the feature is finally seeing a theatrical run in the United States. The movie is directed by Larysa Kondracki, in her feature length debut. It stars Rachel Weisz as Kathryn Bolkovac, the titular whistleblower.
As she is wont to do, Weisz is transcendent in her role, exuding an unsettling mix of determination and grace. The movie is a thriller, following both Weisz as she seeks to uncover the truth about the “waitresses” at the Florida Bar outside Sarajevo and the experiences of the girls themselves. And there is true urgency to be found in parts of the film, but it is born out of base dread. Weisz continually is thwarted in her efforts striving against the dual stacked decks of a corrupt organization and the complicity of an errantly misogynist society.
Yet, much of the applause should be reserved for Roxana Condurache who plays Raya— a kidnapped sex slave from Kiev, Ukraine. Forced into unthinkable realities, she plays the role with a compelling naturalness. Her stolen innocence drives Bolkovac toward the truth.
If the film stayed within these bounds, it would have been much more effective, both as a larger societal message and as a self-contained movie. Instead, the filmmakers tried to pack the story with a broken, unexamined love narrative between Bolkovac and a Dutch national on the U.N. peacekeeping force.
Be forewarned. “The Whistleblower” is unsettling, force-feeding audiences the reality of the sex industry in heavy, graphic doses. There is a fine line with this sort of material, as too much reality can unintentionally hinder the narrative, while a bow-tie story lacks urgency. “The Whistleblower” falls toward the prior.
It's by no means a bad film, just that the medium can't contain such narrative breadth. Instead, it's simply an earnest film that doesn't quite reach the lofty heights to which it aspires. The message is conveyed, but not as effectively as one might hope.
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