‘The Whistleblower’ keeps its politics in the murky background
Directed by Larysa Kondracki
Canada, Germany, United States 2010
A straightforward thriller that is, at times, and not to its detriment, more Hostel than it is Alan Pakula-style paranoia piece, The Whistleblower effectively keeps its politics in the murky background. As opposed to recent political thrillers like Fair Game, Larysa Kondracki’s film instead chooses a structure that is more harrowing and personal, than one rooted in espionage and cross-continental criminal affairs.
Rachel Weisz is Kathryn Bolkovac, a mid-western cop who takes a security post in Bosnia in order to make enough money to move near her daughter and estranged husband. Bolkovac quickly ascends the ladder once her moral code is on full display for her superior Madeleine Rees (Vanessa Redgrave). In the position to make a real change in the region, Bolkovac quickly uncovers a human-trafficking ring involving domestic troops, UN soldiers and other politicos. With the assistance of Internal Affairs operative Peter Ward (David Strathairn) she sets out amidst a dangerous, male-dominated world to expose the truth and free innocent girls being sold as sex slaves.
Director Kondracki keeps the pace fast and the content appropriately unsettling for her debut feature-film. Tackling eye-opening and necessary subject matter, The Whistleblower is not a film to shy away from violence and, though such a gruesome approach seems realistic, it does tire out towards the end, where montages of hysteria and brutality fail to add to any greater understanding or revelation.
A too-rapid, and poorly constructed first act, the purpose of which seems to be to speed through back-story to get to the meat of the film, is luckily outshone by the gripping second and third acts, in which Bolkovac’s humanity, her staunch maternal disposition and her sense of ethics make her both a compelling character and a thorn in the side of the many involved in cover-ups.
Weisz turns in an expert performance, and the supporting cast, featuring David Hewlett (Cube, Splice) and Nikolaj Lie Kaas (Brothers, Angels and Demons) alongside Redgrave and Strathairn, is excellent.
Some of the strongest scenes in The Whistleblower – a raid on a suspected trafficking locale, a mother’s grief at her daughter’s disappearance – are handled suspensefully and expertly, marked by Kondracki’s handheld, rapidly cutting camera, grim cinematography from Kieran McGuigan, and the low, dramatic score from Mychael Danna.
While Strathairn’s Ward is underdeveloped and given a tacked on pseudo-twist at the end, his presence in the narrative, along with an appearance from UN Operations Manager Bill Hynes (Liam Cunningham), points to the underlying cause for the problem and posits that the root of the evil is not only the men on the ground, but also those in positions higher-up.
– Neal Dhand