DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

The Whistleblower – Blu-ray (2012)

Film about the Bosnian scandal is reissued in hi-def.

Published on April 16, 2012

 The Whistleblower – Blu-ray (2012)

Cast: Rachel Weisz; David Strathairn; Nikolaij Liekass; Anna Anissmova; Monica Bellucci; Vanessa Redgrave
Studio: 20th
 Century Fox Home Entertainment [1/24/2012]
Director: Larysa Kondracki
Video: 2.35:1 anamorphic/enhanced for 16:9, 1080p HD Color
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish
Extras: “Kathy Bolkovac: The Real Whistleblower”
Length: 112 minutes
Rating: ***:

In her debut, writer/director Larysa Kondracki has pieced together a chilling, and somewhat muddled expose of “human trafficking” in post-war Bosnia. As the film opens in Lincoln Nebraska, policewoman/divorcee Kathy Bolkovac is dealing with a family crisis. Her husband is moving to Atlanta with her daughter. She is unable to transfer there and ends up taking a private contractor security job in Bosnia (a strange choice to move further away). In her new position, she initiates the first domestic abuse arrest, and earns the attention and support of Madeleine Rees (Vanessa Redgrave) an official with the United Nations. She is recruited to the Gender Affairs Office. There, the film becomes more cogent, as Kathy begins an investigation into the corrupt, multi-faceted, and brutal abuse of teenage women who are forced into prostitution. The layers of military, diplomatic and corporate duplicity is staggering. Bolkovac finds an ally in Internal Affairs officer, Peter Ward (David Strathairn) to expose the multi-faceted conspiracy. At the center of the story is Bolkovac’s crusade to rescue these teenage victims (one especially).

The Whistleblower is an interesting story, but the flow is jagged. At times, it moves deliberately like a documentary, but then it transitions to a suspenseful drama. The pacing is uneven, but the messaging stays intact. There are some visceral disturbing scenes, but they are not exploitative. The saving grace is the steady performance of Rachel Weisz. Her righteous indignation and tenacity are played with sincerity and resolve. There is no shrillness. Her character is flawed, but it is difficult to comprehend her. Unlike other heroines of this genre (Erin Brockovich, Karen Silkwood), the viewer receives little insight into her personality. The inevitable ending seems abrupt. But the horrifying narrative is recounted with unflinching realism, and somehow draws the audience into this shadowy culture.

The transfer to Blu-ray is very good. The film has a muted dark look with silhouettes and grainy footage. The audio is satisfactory, primarily focused on dialogue. The only bonus feature is a six minute piece that includes information about the real-life Kathy Bolkovac.

—Robbie Gerson




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