Based on the true story of Nebraska policewoman Kathryn Bolkovac, The Whistleblower tells of how she went out to Bosnia as a UN peacekeeper and ended up unravelling a sex trafficking ring with links to some very important people actually working at the UN. Rachel Weisz brilliantly depicts Kathryn as a dedicated woman just doing her job and naively believing that is enough. Soon she realises that she can’t trust many people, including the local police and her fellow peacekeepers, and she risks her life to continue the mission secretly. The only people she can trust are the head of the Human Rights Commission Madeleine Rees (played by the magnificent Vanessa Redgrave) and possibly the Internal Affairs agent she is introduced to Peter Ward (David Strathairn).
This is the kind of film that you can never truly enjoy watching per se due to the subject matter but it is riveting and shocking from beginning to end. It is incredibly important that films like this get made and people go and see them as it is about an issue that still exists and many of us have no idea about. The corrupt nature of the people sent out there to help vulnerable people is truly horrifying but it is an inspirational story of the difference one person can make with courageousness and persistence.
Weisz shows just how great an actress she is with a very real performance, never opting to depict Kathryn as a hero but rather a normal woman trying to do the right thing for the women she comes into contact with. Monica Bellucci has a small part as Laura Leviani, an emotionally detached bureaucrat who prevents victims of the trafficking from moving on as they don’t have a passport. The female characters are well written and strong, even if we don’t like all of them, and it is refreshing to see so many in such male orientated professions.
There is a lack of effects and fancy cinematography in this film, it is all about the story and the acting, which really helps the audience believe in the film, at times it did feel like a documentary. The high level of realism is commendable and the uncomfortable and distressing subject matter was dealt with delicately, never gratuitously but at the same time not glossing over the details.
We see everything from Kathryn’s perspective and as she learns more about what is going on so do we. The film is written and directed by females and the main protagonist is a strong female which are all rather rare in filmmaking in general so it is good to acknowledge it when it occurs, although it is a shame that it takes such a serious issue to produce such a strong film by women, I would love to see strong lighter films directed by women too, but that is a discussion for another day.
The Whistleblower is a gripping political thriller full of eye-opening facts and superb acting. It may not be a film to escape from the world with but it is truly inspirational and will make you want to try and do something or at least make you aware of what is going on. It is a powerful film and an important story well told.
Director: Larysa Kondracki
Writers: Latysa Kondracki and Eilis Kirwan
Cast: Rachel Weisz, Monica Bellucci, Vanessa Redgrave
Runtime: 112 mins
Country: Germany and Canada