The Whistleblower is a gritty, disturbing film based on a true story, but treated with the urgency of a thriller. The luminous Rachel Weisz stars as Kathryn Bolkovac, a dedicated American cop and single mom, who takes a United Nations peacekeeping job in post-war Bosnia of the late 90s to solve her financial problems. When she’s put in charge of looking into gender crimes, she discovers that cops, diplomats, and even UN employees are involved in a major sex trafficking racket that she becomes determined to expose.
The film is no doubt well-intentioned and, like Michael Mann’s The Insider, it makes a point of humanizing the victims instead of treating them merely as statistics. By giving us back-stories for at least two young girls, and a peek into the homes and families they were uprooted from, you get a sense that these are real people, and that emphasizes the heinousness of the crimes against them.
But it’s Bolkovac and her journey that is front and center here. The film is sluggish in the first act, but gathers momentum soon after, as she goes down the rabbit hole discovering increasingly unpleasant truths. Weisz plays Bolkovac with a good blend of steely determination and vulnerability, and it helps that she’s surrounded by solid actors like Vanessa Redgrave, David Strathairn and Monica Bellucci.
I’m going with three out of five for The Whistleblower. It’s a film that will anger you. But despite its strengths, it doesn’t quite pack the emotional wallop required for it to stay in your head long after the end credits have rolled.