Not recommended, particularly for anyone on prescription antidepressants.
You know a movie is in deep trouble when the heroine is the twice divorced mother of several small children that she has lost to her most recent ex-spouse in a custody battle, even if she is played by the talented Rachel Weisz. At the risk of sounding like some latter day Puritan ascetic, if you can’t embrace her, how can you embrace her cause?
Simply stated, this problem lies at the heart of why The Whistleblower is such a profound disappointment. Based on true events, the film tells the story of a flawed Nebraska police officer (Ms. Weisz) who joins the U.N. peace keeping mission in Bosnia following the tragic civil war that engulfed the area in the 1990’s. In the process, she discovers a rampant sex trade in teenage girls, a trade overseen and participated in by some of her civilian and U.N. colleagues.
Again, the problem is not Ms. Weisz’s performance as much as it is the character she is playing, Kathryn Bolkovac. As she is gradually drawn into the sordid Bosnian underworld in her attempt to save these poor girls, her “me against the world” crusade rings strangely hollow. Yes, you admire her guts and moxie, but where was her moral clarity when she lost her own girls as a result of her unexplained personal transgressions?
But what really causes Whistleblower to sink like a lead weight is the fact that it is a very serious movie without any nuance or pace. It literally devolves into a continual series of God-awful scenes involving brutalized, screaming girls, their grinning, oafish exploiters and Ms. Weisz’s Bolkovac breaking down into sobs at every turn. Instead of feeling the pain of our adolescent victims, you become strangely numb to it.
Unfortunately, as The Whistleblower mutates into a morass of human agony, you can’t help but feel progressively unclean in the process. Even when Bolkovac, true to the film’s title, risks life and limb by publicly naming names, there remains only an unconsolable sense of sadness.
The lack of a meaningful catharsis robs this film of the dignity it so desperately seeks. Despite the fact that we are supposed to admire Bolkovac because she stood tall against the power of the corrupt political machine, the closing credits reveal that she abandoned her own children to live with her married lover (a fellow peace keeper, naturally) in the Netherlands. Some hero.