War is hell -- particularly when the peacekeepers you're supposed to be relying on are part of the problem.
We found that out big time with Blackwater and Halliburton during the Iraq War. And, as Larysa Kondracki's film, The Whistleblower shows, it wasn't much different when the UN sent people in to try to mitigate the carnage during the war in Bosnia in the early 1990s.
Based on a true story, The Whistleblower is dark, grim and harrowing. It tells the tale of Kathy Bolkovac (Rachel Weisz), a Nebraska cop looking to make some big dough so she can afford to follow her children (in the custody of her ex-husband) to their new home in Atlanta. She's been passed over by various law-enforcement agencies in Georgia and feels despondent -- until she's offered a chance to be part of the peacekeeping force being hired by the UN in Bosnia.
Almost as soon as she gets there, she discovers that her coworkers aren't all that interested in anything resembling pro-active enforcement. When she solves a case involving a criminal abuser, she comes to the attention of a top official (Vanessa Redgrave), who wants Kathy to use actual police skills to look into the activities of local bordellos.
But Kathy quickly finds herself running up against her coworkers, who seem not to care about the whorehouses that appear to be -- indeed, are -- clearing houses for sex slaves from other parts of the Balkans and former Soviet Union. The deeper she digs, the more trails she finds leading back to her own shop.
The culture of corruption is a tough and pervasive one to combat, particularly in a war zone. By pitting herself against the lawbreakers, she finds herself friendless and, eventually, powerless. Before long, she realizes that her own life may be in danger.
Weisz captures the sense of both righteous indignation and the dawning realization of isolation that Kathy feels. She's a tough cop -- but there's not much she can do alone, when her coworkers are actively pushing back in the opposite direction.
She has strong support from Redgrave, terrific as always, as a figure of strength and grace. David Strathairn is good as the nervous bureaucrat who seems willing to stick his neck out to help Kathy get her story out to the world at large.
Suspenseful and hard-edged, The Whistleblower paints a heroic picture of Kathy and a disheartening image of the organizations that seem too absorbed by their own territoriality and greed to actually do their jobs. Some things, it seems, never change.
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