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The Whistleblower
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Reviewed on 2011-08-26
Received[3.5]  out of 4 stars
Academy Award winner Rachel Weisz ("The Constant Gardener" and "The Shape of Things") stars in this political thriller inspired by actual events. Kathryn Bolkovac (Weisz), a Lincoln, Neb. police officer takes a high-paying job serving as a United Nations monitor in Bosnia.

Her actual employer is Democra Security (a pseudonym for the real world DynCorp), a private defense contractor. Kathryn arrived in Sarajevo in 1999 expecting a harmonized international effort, but is greeted with disorder and irresponsibility. The predominantly male international police task force behaves like immature college fraternity boys, Bosnian police are uncooperative and there is rampant sexism, both among the local population and in the hallways of the United Nations headquarters.

When Raya (Roxana Condurache), a brutally injured young Ukrainian girl lands in the UN's care, Kathryn unearths a terrible underworld of sex trafficking and traces the criminal behavior to a shocking source.

Canadian filmmaker Larysa Kondracki takes an unflinching look at a horrifying contemporary issue in an impressive debut. Kondracki co-wrote the script with Eilis Kirwan and greatly benefited by having Bolkovac on the set serving as a consultant for the movie. Bolkovac, now living in Amsterdam, co-authored a 2011 book with Cari Lynn titled "The Whistleblower: Sex Trafficking, Military Contractors and One Woman's Fight for Justice."

"I came in as a very naïve Midwestern cop wanting to do the right thing, wanting to bring justice to a lawless world, and I found lawlessness within my own ranks… in the end it was a real awakening for me," said Bolkovac.

The compelling and gripping story puts a face to the innocent, underage girls who are lured to postwar Bosnia under false pretenses. Their passports are confiscated so they can't escape across the border. They are forced to pay off the debt owed to their male captors by serving as sex slaves. They are exhibited and fondled at bars, subjected to physical and mental torture, and sold as prostitutes to the highest bidder.

Kathryn becomes a heroine of human rights when she blows the whistle on this wide-scale ring of corruption cover-ups that includes military officers, diplomats and her fellow male task force peacekeepers. She filed a lawsuit in Great Britain against her employer for unfair dismissal due to a protected disclosure and on 8/2/02 the tribunal unanimously found in her favor.

Weisz elevates the material with another awards-worthy performance. Her character undergoes a remarkable transformation from naivety to indignation to desperation. A sense of outrage even brings her to tears over the immoral and inhuman behavior.

The ensemble cast includes Vanessa Redgrave ("Julia" and "Letters to Juliet"), David Strathairn ("Good Night, and Good Luck," "Matewan" and "Eight Men Out") and Italian beauty Monica Bellucci ("Irreversible" and "The Passion of the Christ").

The movie premiered at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival. It was nominated for the 2011 Cinema for Peace Award. It won audience awards for best narrative feature at Palm Springs and Whistler film festivals. Kondracki won the 2011 Golden Space Needle Award for Best Director at the Seattle International Film Festival.

The movie was filmed in and around Bucharest, Romania. The dialogue is partially in Russian with English subtitles. The 118-minute running time contains disturbing violent content, including a brutal sexual assault, graphic nudity and language.

Two jaw-dropping postscripts at the movie's conclusion should get your attention. They concern human trafficking and the continuing business relationship between the private contractor that fired Bolkovac and the U. S. government. Kondracki hopes her movie sparks a huge debate.

Opening exclusively for a limited engagement at the Rio in Overland Park.

Review By:
Keith Cohen "The Movie Guy"


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