New on DVD: The Whistleblower (2010)

Based on the real experiences of Kathryn Bolkovac, a Nebraska cop who in the late ‘90s signed up for a United Nations peacekeeping force in the former Yugoslavia, Larysa Kondracki’s The Whistleblower carries a big dose of moral outrage.

Kathryn (Rachel Weisz) is a debt-strapped member of the Lincoln PD who answers an ad for a high-paying job as a U.N. Peacekeeper. Soon she finds herself in Bosnia, employed by a big American firm that is contracting services to the U.N.

Kathryn’s success putting together a case against an abusive husband draws the attention of a U.N. bigwig (Vanessa Redgrave), who puts the newcomer in charge of a unit devoted to crimes against women.

This is where Kathryn meets Raya (Roxana Conducrache) and Luba (Paula Schramm), Ukranian teens who have been sold into sexual slavery.

Kathryn’s efforts to free the girls are stymied by labyrinthine U.N. regulations (Monica Bellucci plays the main stickler for rules), the terrorized girls’ refusal to testify against their captors, and the general corruption of the local cops, who aid and abet the sex traffickers.

Slowly it dawns on Kathryn that the problem goes much deeper, that the international peacekeepers are not only clients of these women, but have a financial stake in their exploitation. The very men who are supposed to be protecting them are shamlessly using them.

In this David-vs.-Goliath thriller Kathryn’s investigation is stymied at every turn, not only by the savage culture of the sex traffickers but by her own bosses, who do all they can to see her efforts fail.

Some way, somehow, she must gather enough evidence to blow the whistle on this outrage.

With its many scenes of violence against women The Whistleblower isn’t easy watching, but Weisz’s performance gives the film a human and humane center. This isn’t showy acting, but Weisz knows how to anchor a film and let her audience’s fury slowly percolate.

The film’s technical aspects are good and the rest of the cast — David Strathairn, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Benedict Cumberbatch, David Hewlett, Liam Cunningham — provide solid support.

This is one to watch after the kids have gone to bed.

About the Author

Robert W. Butler is a lifelong Kansas City area resident, a graduate of Shawnee Mission East High School and the William Allen White School of Journalism at the University of Kansas. For several decades he was the movie editor of the Kansas City Star; he now writes a movie-themed blog at butlerscinemascene.com. He joined the Library's Public Affairs team in 2012.

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