Tears Of Rage

Terrible news out of postwar Bosnia

Rachel Weisz playes real-life Nebraska cop Katheryn Bolkovac in The Whistleblower.

The talented Rachel Weisz won an Oscar for playing a brave but doomed idealist in 2005’s The Constant Gardener, and has now done equally creditable work playing a similarly idealistic but very different heroine in The Whistleblower. Based on true events and set in postwar Bosnia, a de-glammed Weisz plays real-life Nebraska cop Kathryn Bolkovac, who in the late 1990s took a six-month contract to provide peacekeeping services in a Bosnia still seething with ethnic hatreds. Little did she know where the real problems would be coming from.

Bolkovac was working for one of those Blackwater-style private security firms under a mandate from the United Nations. Her naïve hope was to make a difference in these war-torn lives. Before long she realizes underage girls are being trafficked as prostitutes in seedy bars; even worse, a lot of the clientele in those bars are the very soldiers and security officers hired to protect civilians. Bolkovac digs a bit deeper and discovers that these girls are literally sex slaves, trucked in from neighbouring countries and subjected to the harshest of brutalities.

Early on she intervenes to help a pair of Romanian teenagers she has come across. But she is quietly stymied – and eventually actively sabotaged – by her own people, who are either happy with the status quo or complicit in the human trafficking operation. Encouraged by two allies – a senior representative of the Human Rights Commission (Vanessa Redgrave) and a member of Internal Affairs (David Strathairn) who stands outside the regular chain of command – Bolkovac bravely pushes forward, despite eventually being ostracized by most of her co-workers and at the risk of her own life.

Directed by Canadian first-timer Larysa Kondracki, Whistleblower is a grim and horrifying exposé with an incendiary story to tell. Much of the colour has been leached from the film stock, and a lot of the scenes were shot at night: it’s a confusing, violent, and hellish world where you can’t tell Croats from Bosnians – and you certainly can’t trust your fellow officers. Considerable suspense is generated as Bolkovac uncovers the full extent of the criminality: not only is her investigation personally dangerous, but it also brings down the wrath of the company employing her (which, if exposed, stands to lose a contract worth many millions). More offensively, she butts heads with officious U.N. bureaucrats who would rather sacrifice a bunch of “war whores” than see the U.N.’s reputation get tarnished.

Some of the storytelling is a bit blunt, and the resolution is dramatically unsatisfying (which is not the film’s fault). But even if Whistleblower can sometimes feel like a goosed-up episode of The Passionate Eye, it’s still a harrowing, punch-to-the-gut drama whose deficiencies are eclipsed by Weisz’s powerhouse performance. The scene where she cries tears of rage when a rescue attempt is thwarted by her own guys is, quite simply, unforgettable. M

 

The Whistleblower ★★★½

Directed by Larysa Kondracki

Starring Rachel Weisz

R – 112 minutes

Continues at  the Odeon

Just Posted

Christmas events set to begin across Greater Victoria

Lights, parades, gingerbread and more are coming to down until the new year

Bold and brassy quintet touching down in Victoria

Internationally recognized Canadian Brass performing with Victoria Symphony on Dec. 21

Oh Danny Bhoy: His Scottish pipes come calling to Victoria

Internationally popular comic brings his Age of Fools tour to the city Dec. 5-6

Nearly 80 incredible artists, one extraordinary Vancouver Island tree

Bateman gallery’s OneTree 2019 honours the life of a single, tree salvaged from the Chemainus Valley

Get the funky seasonal spirit with The Funk Hunters

Fifth annual Funk the Halls extravaganza plays two shows at Capital Ballroom, Dec. 6-7

Canadian ‘Frozen 2’ animators tapped into cold weather experiences

A strong Canadian contingent are behind the second instalment in the blockbuster animated musical film franchise

Shawn Mendes, Drake, Jessie Reyez pick up Grammy nominations

Drake leads the group of Canadian contenders with two nominations

Victoria’s Belfry Theatre hosts its first ‘relaxed performance’ for a diverse audience

Performance of Every Brilliant Thing is first to pilot the option

We Are One! celebrates solidarity, inclusion with song and dance

Nov. 30 performance includes performers from across Greater Victoria

Disney Plus streaming service hits Canada with tech hurdles

Service costs $8.99 per month, or $89.99 per year, in Canada

Most Read