The Whistleblower (2011) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
25Jan/120

The Whistleblower (2011)

Also out this week on DVD is 50/50, Real Steel and Paranormal Activity 3 (all my reviews).

A long time ago, there was a film called Kiss the Girls which introduced the world to a fresh and tough talent by the name of Ashley Judd.  She was one of the few female actresses trapped in a thriller who fought to make it her own and portrayed a lead in the vein of Linda Hamilton instead of Goldie Hawn.  Then, for many years, she dipped back into that well until now when I can say an Ashley Judd-type role and half the work of explaining what the role entails is done for me.

The Whistleblower mines the old Judd well for cinematic inspiration and the life of Kathryn Bolkovac for its story-line.  Rachel Weisz is in the Ashley Judd role, playing a hardened (if not quite cynical) cop who decides to make some money by going to Bosnia (remember Bosnia?  America forgets wars fast) and playing peacemaker for the U.N.  Along the way she gets caught up investigating a sex-slave conspiracy and putting herself in harms way to find the truth.

This is a story which is certainly worth telling but I am hesitant to say that The Whistleblower is the venue with which to do it.  There has already been a book on the subject of Bolkovac's life and the film mines it for detail but doesn't really do anything special to place itself aside from other like-minded international military thrillers like The General's Daughter or Fair Game.  In truth, I'm struggling to remember scenes from The Whistleblower and the credits rolled not thirty minutes ago before I sat down to start writing this piece.

Straithairn makes the most of his scenes by showcasing a beard which could command armies.

The films' heart is in it's right place but the film is clearly coming from the hands and mind of someone who has a bit more learning to do before making something really worthwhile.  The Whistleblower was directed and co-written by Larysa Kondracki who is making her feature-length film debut and it's clear she feels some strong empathy toward the material.  She's unafraid to show some of the horrors the girls of Bosnia have to go through, solidified during a horrific moment where one of the girls has her hand broken with a pipe.

Shock value aside, there was little in the movie to analyze beyond "sex-slavery is bad".  A message like that is easy enough to get across, but there were so many scenes of men standing around glowering at Weisz as she did her best not to cry, and off-set by many other scenes of her looking tough against a perpetual blue-light filter.  There's no style beyond that broad color choice and the film struggles to find some kind of real identity to the point where we don't know what kind of movie we're in at times.  At some points is dirty torture in the Hostel vein, at other points it's the military thriller, then family drama, and with no sure hand to guide us through each transition it comes off as something of a mess.

Uncertain, too, what is to be done with the many heavy hitters who appear on the sidelines.  Vanessa Redgrave and David Strathairn both show up to intone ominous things to Weisz while rising star Benedict Cumberbatch appears to remind audiences he exists outside of Britain.  These are all great talents whose combined screen-time amounts to little more than fifteen minutes at the most, while Monica Bellucci butchers her scenes with some of the breathiest awkward line readings.

I can also scarcely recall her role in the plot, other than "show up and breathe heavily."

I wish I had something more to analyze but struggle as I might, The Whistleblower is exactly what it appears to be and nothing more.  This doesn't make it an outright failure, and I enjoy Weisz even if she's saddled with a fairly shallow role.  But this film asks us to make too many connections with events happening off-screen and what it does show is done with little style and even less anger.  I have no doubt in Kondracki's motives, I just hope her skill will rise much the same.

The Whistleblower (2011)
Directed by Larysa Kondracki.
Screenplay by Larysa Kondracki and Eilis Kirwan.
Starring Rachel Weisz.

Posted by Andrew

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