The Whistleblower (Rachel Weisz, David Strathairn, Vanessa Redgrave, Monica Bellucci) – Rachel Weisz has had a truly excellent career, eschews the pure sexy “look” that permeates the industry, and may be the most under-rated actresses of her generation (she is 40 now and just married Daniel Craig, her co-star in the upcoming Dream House). She can do action films (Enemy At The Gates), light comedy (About A Boy; Definitely, Maybe), and heavy drama (The Constant Gardener, for which she won an Oscar). Plus, she’ll do the occasion political cause film like The Whistleblower.
Here, she plays Kathy Bolkovac, a Lincoln, Nebraska, policewoman who is a bit too dedicated to her job, losing custody of her daughter in a divorce. To earn enough money to be able to move near the child, whose father is moving out of Nebraska, she accepts an assignment with one of those private security firms the U.S. apparently relies on to guard and supplement its troops abroad and which are apparently all evil (if you believe TV and movies). For $100,000 in tax-free money, she heads over to Bosnia to be a peacekeeper with the U.N.
This is not a war movie. The story is about Kathy’s discovery of slave trade not only tacitly condoned by the U.N. but protected by and even complicit with it. The soldiers engage the enslaved women and even help identify potential young women. A difficult movie to watch, we quickly see the graphic nature of this crime against humanity and the exploitation of young, often-naive women. Kathy is relentless, and she is not winning any friends along the way. Her only ally seems to be the Internal Affairs chief (played by Academy Award winner David Strathairn, another highly versatile performer) who helps her along the way but never gets too involved. Kathy brings her findings to Madeleine Rees (Vanessa Redgrave), whose job is fuzzy but seems to be a high-ranking U.N. diplomat with influence but no jurisdiction over the troops. She tried to help, too, but ultimately proves to be nothing more than a bureaucrat as does Laura Leviani (Monica Bellucci), who appears to be the lead prosecutor for the U.N. occupiers. Leviani isn’t much of a boat-rocker either, particularly in the absence of convincing evidence. Unfortunately, Kathy relies on two of the enslaved women who agree to testify but then pay the price for talking to the investigator. When Kathy comes face-to-face with the dozen or more women whose freedom she can deliver, they are too fearful to serve as witnesses against the U.N. troops and the local pimps. Despite her best efforts, Kathy can’t seem to break through the maze, and her private contractor employer wants no part of her sex-slave discovery.
At the end of the movie, we find out that as many as 2 million people are estimated to be victims of slave trade around the world, which takes a taut police/military drama into political territory. Weisz carries this entire indie movie, which was shot in just over a month and on a shoestring budget. The film may be hard to find outside major markets and art house theaters but it is well worth finding or adding to your Netflix list. Weisz is one of those actresses whose films I never miss and am rarely, if ever, disappointed by.