‘Whistleblower’: Sex trafficking drama ought to outrage

  • By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
  • Friday, August 19, 2011 12:01am
  • Life

We can assume that some of the true-life material in “The Whistleblower” has been enhanced for the feature film version, only because this is the case with just about every movie based on a true story.

But even if only half of what’s in the movie is certifiable, it’s a horrifying enough tale

of a system corrupted in the most basic way. The film recounts the experiences of Kathryn Bolkovac, a Nebraska law-enforcement officer who decided to take a job working in Bosnia in the late 1990s; the money was good and the area needed an international police force to keep the peace.

Bolkovac was hired by DynCorp, although the name of that company has been changed in the movie. What she sees during her duty includes child prostitution and human trafficking, not at the hands of local warlords, but with the involvement of the supposed peacekeepers.

So the film has the makings of a political thriller, but with a very grim tone indeed. Bolkovac is played by Oscar-winner Rachel Weisz, who commits completely to the part and plays down the heroism of her role in favor of a welcome realism.

It’s Weisz’s show, as the other characters tend to pop in and out of the storyline: Vanessa Redgrave plays the head of the U.N. Human Rights Commission, and David Strathairn and Monica Belluci appear as other officials listening (or not) to Bolkovac’s charges.

The director is Larysa Kondracki, who understandably uses melodrama to keep the story going: This is an outrageous situation, without a great deal of comic relief, and the dark, shadowy approach is pretty much the only way you could go.

Some of this feels pushy, but I think Kondracki maintains a firm hand at the helm; even if the villains appear one-dimensional, it’s hard to imagine they were anything else.

The sheer power of the presentation is presumably why Kondracki was voted the Best Director prize by the audience at the Seattle International Film Festival earlier this year.

“The Whistleblower” is not what you’d call enjoyable to watch, as it plays out sequences that expose unthinkably abhorrent crimes. Whether this will get viewers interested in the subject at hand or numbed by the cruelty of it remains to be seen, but if any story deserves to generate outrage, this one certainly does.

“The Whistleblower”

Feature-film version of the real story of Kathryn Bolkovac, a Nebraska police officer whose experiences working as an international peacekeeper in Bosnia uncovered a ring of underage prostitution and sex trafficking. Not exactly enjoyable to watch, but star Rachel Weisz and director Larysa Kondracki keep a firm hand on the horrifying material.

Rated: R for violence, nudity, subject matter.

Showing: Harvard Exit.

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