Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Cannes Review: Gaspar Noé's Hardcore And Softhearted 'Love' Cannes Review: Gaspar Noé's Hardcore And Softhearted 'Love' Here's The Character Backstory For Doof aka Guitar Flamethrower Dude In 'Mad Max: Fury Road' Here's The Character Backstory For Doof aka Guitar Flamethrower Dude In 'Mad Max: Fury Road' Cannes Review: Hou Hsiao-Hsien's 'The Assassin' Is An Epic Visual Poem Cannes Review: Hou Hsiao-Hsien's 'The Assassin' Is An Epic Visual Poem The 10 Most Controversial Cannes Films Ever The 10 Most Controversial Cannes Films Ever Roger Deakins To Shoot Denis Villeneuve's 'Blade Runner' Sequel Roger Deakins To Shoot Denis Villeneuve's 'Blade Runner' Sequel More NSFW Posters For Gaspar Noe's 3D 'Love' Plus The Official Director's Statement More NSFW Posters For Gaspar Noe's 3D 'Love' Plus The Official Director's Statement Cannes: Watch A Three Way Makeout In The First Clip From Gaspar Noe’s 3D ‘Love’ Plus New NSFW Image Cannes: Watch A Three Way Makeout In The First Clip From Gaspar Noe’s 3D ‘Love’ Plus New NSFW Image Simon Pegg Worries That Adults Obsessed With Comics & Sci-Fi Have Become "Infantilized By Our Own Taste" Simon Pegg Worries That Adults Obsessed With Comics & Sci-Fi Have Become "Infantilized By Our Own Taste" Cannes Review: Denis Villeneuve's 'Sicario' Starring Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin And Benicio Del Toro Cannes Review: Denis Villeneuve's 'Sicario' Starring Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin And Benicio Del Toro George Miller Says He Courted Heath Ledger To Lead 'Mad Max' In 2006, Reveals Title For 'Fury Road' Sequel George Miller Says He Courted Heath Ledger To Lead 'Mad Max' In 2006, Reveals Title For 'Fury Road' Sequel Watch: Michael Fassbender Takes The Stage In First Trailer For 'Steve Jobs' Watch: Michael Fassbender Takes The Stage In First Trailer For 'Steve Jobs' Cannes Review: Todd Haynes' 'Carol' Starring Cate Blanchett & Rooney Mara Cannes Review: Todd Haynes' 'Carol' Starring Cate Blanchett & Rooney Mara Nicolas Winding Refn Goes 60 fps For 'The Neon Demon' Nicolas Winding Refn Goes 60 fps For 'The Neon Demon' George Miller Says 'Interstellar' Came Close To What His Version Of 'Contact' Would've Been Like George Miller Says 'Interstellar' Came Close To What His Version Of 'Contact' Would've Been Like New NSFW, Extremely Graphic, Adults-Only Poster For Gaspar Noe's 'Love' New NSFW, Extremely Graphic, Adults-Only Poster For Gaspar Noe's 'Love' The 25 Best Films Of 2015 We've Already Seen The 25 Best Films Of 2015 We've Already Seen Check Out Teaser Posters For Gaspar Noe's 'Love' & Nicolas Winding Refn's 'The Neon Demon' Check Out Teaser Posters For Gaspar Noe's 'Love' & Nicolas Winding Refn's 'The Neon Demon' The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More

IFFBoston Review: 'The Whistleblower' Plays More Like A Whisper

The Playlist By Catherine Scott | The Playlist May 5, 2011 at 2:44AM

Hollywood hasn’t gotten tired of taking great leading actresses and sticking them in films meant to showcase their strengths, usually in an exaggerated plea for an Oscar. Larysa Kondracki’s “The Whistleblower” is just this for Rachel Weisz, only the major flaws in the film’s structure detract from the admittedly great performance Weisz turns out.
7


Hollywood hasn’t gotten tired of taking great leading actresses and sticking them in films meant to showcase their strengths, usually in an exaggerated plea for an Oscar. Larysa Kondracki’s “The Whistleblower” is just this for Rachel Weisz, only the major flaws in the film’s structure detract from the admittedly great performance Weisz turns out.

In this story based on true events, Weisz stars as Kathryn Bolkovac, an American police officer who travels to Bosnia for a 6-month stint as a UN peacekeeper in the ‘90s. Kathryn doesn’t really care about keeping the peace; she needs the large paycheck in order to move closer to her daughter whom she lost in a custody battle. Upon arrival, she finds that the place is a bigger mess than she imagined.

When she stumbles across a bar of sex-trafficked girls that many police officers and UN officials frequent, Kathryn realizes she can’t turn her head the other way like everybody else. As she takes her findings to people higher and higher up, she begins to see that a huge web of deceit has been woven, not to mention that none of these men can be punished because of diplomatic immunity. If the story rings a bell, that’s because it’s much like the Steven Soderbergh-directed “Erin Brockovich,” the film that won the less-than-mediocre Julia Roberts her Oscar. And though Weisz is ten times the actress Roberts is, she can’t save this picture from falling flat. “Whistleblower” is Kondracki’s first feature film, as well as her first produced feature-length script, and her inexperience shows, especially in the writing.

There are scenes where Kathryn arrives, talks to cops about a riot, then has to head back to headquarters. Why was she even in the scene at all if no important information was conveyed? The entire first act drags because we see Kathryn in her normal life, then just hanging out in Bosnia, and the meat of the film doesn’t get going until almost halfway in. We need to know why she’s in Bosnia, but it might have been more effective to place us in the middle of the action, flashing back to her struggles at home. The dialogue often feels clunky even with Weisz’s expert readings, and instead of meaningful interaction, we get many shots in which Weisz yells expletives at the horror going on around her.

Once the film gets going, however, the conflict and the disgusting nature of what’s being done to these young girls is both repulsive and engaging, like not being able to look away from a sick sports injury. Though it’s difficult to say whether or not we’re interested because Kondracki has finally picked up the pace or because the material is so inflammatory, we know that she has a great story on her hands. Not only are these girls stolen from their homes and forced to work as sex slaves, but the men (and some women) sent to protect them participate and encourage their suffering with their money.

In this way, the film really does raise some interesting feminist questions, about both men and women. And though the men are entirely one-dimensional -- all scum of the most bottom rung in life -- the women are wholly interesting. Kathryn becomes interested in one girl in particular, Raya, and she promises to keep her safe but can’t hold up her end of the bargain. Raya’s mother continues to search for her daughter, fighting everyone in her way, while Raya’s aunt is too scared to go against her husband when he sells her to the highest bidder in the beginning of the film. Kondracki is not so much asking how men could do these things to girls, but how women could stand by and let other women be tortured and abused. What has to happen to break that cycle of fear?

It’s too bad that Kondracki never delves deeper into these questions. One of the problems is that she has two phenomenal supporting actresses -- Monica Bellucci as Laura, the head of a displacement agency, and Vanessa Redgrave as Madeline, Kathryn’s supervisor in gender affairs -- and the director has no idea how to use them. Bellucci appears in the middle of the movie for about twenty minutes as a paragon of red tape insanity, then disappears forever. Redgrave gives Kathryn her job, but then we’re never quite sure why her character can’t help Kathryn get the message out. And don’t even mention the boyfriend character she picks up in Bosnia, who we see maybe three times, only learning that he’s married with two children (translate: winner).

Because of Weisz’s performance, “Whistleblower” is a film that will find an audience, especially for women who don’t want to watch the next installment of “Sex and the City.” She might even get some awards recognition, although 2011 is looking to be another good year for lead actresses. The thought behind the material is good, but one can only wish that Weisz had chosen a project equally as good as her talents. Lucky for her she’ll have more than ample opportunity to nab her second golden man. Now Kondracki, we’re not so sure about. [C-]

This article is related to: Films, The Whistleblower, IFFBoston


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates