Rachel Weisz stars in The Whistleblower; a tale of corruption and illegal sex trafficking in a post-war Bosnia. The film takes a very non-Hollywood route to exposing the truth behind a story based on true events. The Whistleblower is grimy, unsettling and sad, but thanks to Rachel Weisz‘s performance the films message is delivered loud and clear, whether you’re willing to listen or not.
Nebraska cop Kathy Bolkovac (Rachel Weisz) is transferred to a post-war Bosnia in hopes of earning some quick money so that she can re-locate closer to her daughter. She’s a tough cop, not afraid to get her hands wet if it means the case will get solved. Shortly after arriving in Bosnia she starts investigating a series of abuse cases that lead her directly to a bar that’s harboring ladies for sex trafficking.
She tries her best to right the wrongs right away, but she soon realizes how deep the operation goes. Everyone from fellow officers to higher ups in the corporation is involved in this sex trafficking ring and she only has a few people that she can fully trust.
The more she exposes this operation the more she endangers her life and those trying to help her. The Whistleblower is about one woman who stands up for what’s right, despite the fatal consequences. It gives you a first-hand experience of how filthy and dehumanizing sex trafficking really is. It’s not just a means of providing men with woman for casual sex, but it allows men to treat women like complete animals, abusing them beyond sexual limits and exposing their own true ugly nature.
The Whistleblower is a moving film because of Rachel Weisz‘s performance. She’s not your typical gun slinger who bursts into a room and starts shooting the bad guys and bringing the girls to safety. She’s much more grounded in the limitations of reality. Her struggle is a hard one and it takes a lot of courage to do what her character does. Weisz is such a powerful actor and her charisma matches the role of Kathy Bolkovac. She makes the character the driving factor in the film.
The rest of the films characters don’t provide as much weight as Weisz, but they serve the plot just fine. The Whistleblower is very much a one woman show and anyone that tries to get in the way is dealt with accordingly.
The film paints a dark and nasty picture of Bosnia. City streets are full of trash and everyone is generally angry or miserable. Director Larysa Kondracki uses the setting as a way to strengthen the character of Kathy. When the film starts she’s in a warm and colorful America, struggling at trying to get her family on the right track and when she’s sent to Bosnia she’s almost instantly thrown into an alien world. No one will speak to her or help her and when things get bad she has no one to rely on but herself.
It shows how well Kathy can adapt to her surroundings and how focused she stays on the task at hand. Not once does she display fear or uncertainty, because she knows what she’s doing is the right thing to do. And that’s what I liked about the film. It’s not one of the most memorable films I’ve seen, but it features one really strong main character that is 100% the real deal. She doesn’t need any motives to do what she does; she just does it because it’s what’s right. Peace is the true reward.
The Whistleblower‘s 1080p transfer is a mixed bag. The film is naturally dark and lifeless, due to the Bosnian setting, but the detail struggles staying consistent. Some shots contain sharp edge and little grain while others are completely smudgy and lacking any detail. There’s a specific lens used throughout the film that creates a fisheye effect, which causes detail to be tampered with and inconsistent. I’m assuming those shots were intentionally filmed that way.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track isn’t all that thrilling. This is a front-loaded track that focuses heavily on dialogue and close-quarters effects. The rear channels rarely spark any sound during the films running time. The film doesn’t contain much action that needs to fully use the 5.1 setup, but it would have been nice to have some more added effects.
The disc only contains one short special feature.
- Kathy Bolkovac: The Real Whistleblower (HD): This short 5 minute feature shows the real Kathy Bolkovac and what she thought of the casting of Rachel Weisz. It also features other cast members commenting on Rachel’s performance and how well she managed to capture the likeness of the real Kathy. Rachel also discusses what she was trying to achieve in her performance.
I can see why The Whistleblower got passed over when it made its brief run in limited release. It’s a good thriller, but it’s not a big Hollywood one. It’s more focused on Kathy’s personal connection with the case and how she won’t let anything get in her way when it comes to solving it. None of the side characters are ever really brought into play, which might upset people looking for a little more story to be told. The story that is presented is an uncomfortable one, but very powerful.
The Blu-Ray disc has a troubled video transfer and a very basic audio track. There’s only one small bonus feature that sheds a little light on the real life Kathy Bolkovac. I would have loved if they went in more depth on Rachel Weisz and how she prepared for the role, but giving the limited budget I’m assuming that just wasn’t in the cards. The Whistleblower makes for an uneasy rental because of the subject matter. I wouldn’t suggest buying until the price drops significantly due to the lack of features and the so-so presentation.