Combustible Celluloid
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With: Rachel Weisz, Monica Bellucci, Vanessa Redgrave, David Strathairn, Nikolaj Lie Kaas
Written by: Larysa Kondracki, Eilis Kirwan
Directed by: Larysa Kondracki
MPAA Rating: R for disturbing violent content including a brutal sexual assault, graphic nudity and language
Running Time: 112
Date: 09/13/2010

The Whistleblower (2011)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Human Traffic Jam

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The Ukrainian Canadian filmmaker Larysa Kondracki makes her feature writing and directing debut with The Whistleblower, and it seems to be straddling two Hollywood traditions. It wants to be a true story with a powerful, active female lead, like Norma Rae, Erin Brockovich, and North Country. But it also wants to be a political potboiler, using factual elements as part of a typical thriller (All the President's Men, The Insider). Unfortunately, the thriller stuff is very soft, and the docudrama stuff is too focused on "Oscar moments," i.e. huge expressions of outrage and torment.

In 1999, Kathryn Bolkovac (Rachel Weisz) is a cop in Lincoln, Nebraska, who has lost her daughter in a divorce settlement. She agrees to take a high-paying job as a "peacekeeper" in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where she quickly realizes that laziness and corruption rule the day. Her training and ethics don't allow her to lie down on the job, so she starts working hard. She soon discovers a human trafficking ring, wherein teen girls are tortured and sold as sex slaves, and begins looking for ways to shut it down. In the meantime, she becomes personally attached to two Ukranian girls, which brings more trouble and heartache. Worse, the depth and breadth of the corruption is far more considerable than she could have possibly imagined.

Kondracki has clearly done some research here, and in-between the awkward moments of finding bugs in phones and stealing satchels full of classified documents, the movie tells a horrifying tale of human trafficking, and the severe cruelty it inflicts in exchange for a massive profit. The only scenes that don't involve lead character Kathryn focus on the victims' families with tragic results. If the movie serves a purpose, aside from Weisz's powerhouse performance, it's to impart information about this important issue.

The only extra on Fox's 2012 Blu-Ray is "Kathy Bolkovac: The Real Whistleblower," a short featurette that includes interviews with Bolkovac, Weisz, and the film's writers and director.

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