The Whistleblower exposes modern slavery | Film Review | Indy Week
Pin It

The Whistleblower exposes modern slavery 

It's really remarkable sometimes, how well-meaning filmmakers will tackle atrocious real-life events and turn them into formulaic Hollywood-style thrillers. A case in point is The Whistleblower, a film "inspired by actual events" that tells the story of Kathryn Bolkovac, an American police investigator who takes a job with a private contractor in post-war Bosnia and discovers evidence of international aid workers and U.N. officials participating in sex trafficking. This much is true.

But in Larysa Kondracki's overheated-to-boiling melodrama, Bolkovac's role has been inflated. The real Bolkovac was sent to the region specifically to investigate the sex trade, but the movie's Bolkovac is a naïf who only takes the job so she can make enough money to move closer to her daughter. Where the real Bolkovac seems to have begun and ended her involvement in the region as an employee of a private security firm, the film's Bolkovac, played by a clenched-jawed Rachel Weisz, attracts the attention of a righteous local United Nations honcho (played by Vanessa Redgrave, of course) and is swiftly promoted into a U.N. position ("Head of Gender Affairs"), which empowers her to walk into crime scenes and interrogations and bark orders at everyone, thus becoming the big thorn in the side of the complacent, corrupt international establishment in the region.

The barest facts are bad enough. After discovering that some her cocky male co-workers have unsavory after-hours predilections, Bolkovac happens upon a pair of terrified girls from Eastern Europe who have been sucked into a nightmare with no easy escape: They're in a war zone and their papers have been seized by their captors, thus complicating their legal status. Worse, the perpetrators are above prosecution because of their diplomatic immunity.

But instead of sticking to the facts, Kondracki and her co-writer Eilis Kirwan, contrive the most hackneyed thriller they can achieve. One can almost see them saying, "OK, this is the scene where Bolkovac makes a promise to the girls we know she can't keep," and "Now we need a scene where she realizes the corruption goes to the top," and "Now we need to make the music louder as she sneaks into an office to steal top-secret files!"

What's disturbing about the film is that it reinforces the myth of the morally upright American who's innocent of the ways of the corrupt, sickly old world. "This is bullshit," Bolkovac shouts at a sniveling, do-nothing Italian NGO officer.

"We have a system that works," the official replies haughtily.

"Oh, really," Bolkovac snarls, with the same ill-informed self-righteousness that was so characteristic of George W. Bush as he led his country into a military quagmire.

Better movies about the modern trafficking of women include David Cronenberg's Eastern Promises, Lukas Moodysson's harrowing Lilya 4-Ever and even the second season of The Wire. The Whistleblower, on the other hand, is obvious and forgettable.

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in Film Review



Twitter Activity

Comments

Much as I hate to be that guy, I must nonetheless point out a minor error in your review. The …

by Just Another Malcontent on Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs Is an Alternately Respectful and Baffling Parable About Japan (Film Review)

I loved the movie but I'm curious about the Japanese version. Will it be translated or subtitled? I assume they …

by Neil Robertson on Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs Is an Alternately Respectful and Baffling Parable About Japan (Film Review)

Most Read

Most Recent Comments

Much as I hate to be that guy, I must nonetheless point out a minor error in your review. The …

by Just Another Malcontent on Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs Is an Alternately Respectful and Baffling Parable About Japan (Film Review)

I loved the movie but I'm curious about the Japanese version. Will it be translated or subtitled? I assume they …

by Neil Robertson on Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs Is an Alternately Respectful and Baffling Parable About Japan (Film Review)

Lurid and Trashy? Clint Eastwood is a true pioneer of cinema-in front of the camera and in the directors chair.For …

by jde on In Her Remake of Clint Eastwood's Lurid, Trashy The Beguiled, Sofia Coppola Probes Deeper Rhythms (Film Review)

Americans are really good at watching movies and everyone knows that they spend a lot of money on watching them, …

by Anil Sharma on The Average American Sees Five Thousand Movies in a Lifetime. Half of Them Come Out This Week. (Film Review)

I read a couple of good reviews about this movie in Hungarian papers. Actually it could be my mother's and …

by Gabor Lukacs on Ferenc Török’s 1945 Is a Dark Fable and a History Lesson Wrapped in Fine Cinematic Storytelling (Film Review)

© 2018 Indy Week • 320 E. Chapel Hill St., Suite 200, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation