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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, August 26, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 34
Weisz is Whistleblower's heart and soul
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Weisz is Whistleblower's heart and soul

by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN Contributing Writer

The Whistleblower
Now Playing


Kathryn Bolkovac (Rachel Weisz) is a single mother desperate to get partial custody of her kids. In order to make some good, honest money to help make this happen, she takes a job as a United Nations peacekeeper in post-war Bosnia. She has an immediate rapport with the people, something U.N. bigwig Madeleine Rees (Vanessa Redgrave) notices right away.

Kathy soon has a desk job overseeing women's issues - dealing with calls involving domestic abuse, rape, and other heinous crimes. But her hopes of making a difference are dashed when she discovers a network of underground slave traders brazenly flaunting their wares with no regard to the consequences. As she digs deeper into this despicable morass, the highly decorated former officer discovers a duplicitous world of political and corporate double-speak and glad-handing that's not only covering up what's happening to these young woman, but has a hand in allowing this inhuman business to grow.

Based on a true story, freshman director Larysa Kondracki's (who also co-wrote the script) shocking, oftentimes devastating procedural drama The Whistleblower is a strong effort made even more so thanks to the mesmerizing talents of Weisz. The actress dominates in a way that is visceral and spellbinding, attacking the material and delivering a performance that is raw, honest, and deeply heartfelt. Kathy's emotional investment in busting this ring of slave traders and shining the harsh light of day on her superiors and on the U.N. is instantly palpable, and the actress delivers one of the best performances I've seen so far this year.

The movie almost matches Weisz's level of excellence. The early sequences work best, depicting Kathy's reasons for traveling to Bosnia, her connection to the people, and her discovery of a young woman, Raya (Roxana Condurache), trying to escape from her captors and start a life of freedom. These scenes move between bureaucratic absurdity and the working-class mundane with a simplistic grace that's intoxicating, and the further our heroine journeys down her sexually sickening rabbit hole, the more I found I couldn't tear my eyes away from the screen.

Sadly, the movie is not without its issues. Kondracki has trouble keeping a consistent pace or striking a tone that does not waver from scene to scene. The chief bad guys, part of Kathy's security team, are depicted as one-dimensional monsters more suited to a B-grade 1980s-era slasher film than they are to this, while the handheld camerawork a la The Bourne Ultimatum and The Bourne Supremacy isn't nearly as effective as the filmmaker apparently thinks it is. It also doesn't help that the conclusion is rushed and perfunctory, and the final moments are so hurried I couldn't help but wonder if there was more and if the projectionist forgot to insert a missing reel.

Yet The Whistleblower works, sometimes brilliantly. The stuff between Kathy and Raya is powerful - it never goes for the easy way out, and stays far from cliché. Like in real life, the choices made are not always the ones you're hoping they will be, making the story connect even more powerfully because of the mistakes and missteps that frustratingly can't help but occur.

It also helps that Kondracki has cast her film marvelously, and while the big-name supporting players like Redgrave, Monica Bellucci, and David Strathairn certainly stand out, it's unknowns like Condurache (who is wonderful), Paula Schramm, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Luke Treadaway, and Liam Cunningham who make the most indelible impressions. The picture is also beautifully scored by the great Mychael Danna (The Piano, The Time Traveler's Wife), the acclaimed composer striking a perfect balance with his music that is constantly compelling and oftentimes remarkable.

But in the end this is Weisz's show, start to finish, and she is the number-one reason to give The Whistleblower a look. This is a performance that rattles rafters and could potentially make people stand up and cheer. She is the front-and-center highlight and the one facet that is wholly magnificent the entire way through. While the movie itself may have its flaws and structurally might not always connect, Weisz is perfection incarnate.

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