Hideously photographed and generically told, but the inherently compelling real-world subject matter of Larysa Kondracki’s The Whistleblower ensures that the film remains somewhat engaging, though largely by default. A grim and grizzly tale of political corruption and human exploitation based on actual events, the film stars Rachel Weisz as a Nebraska cop assigned to the United Nations as part of a peace-keeping force in post-civil war Bosnia who uncovers a link between private military contractors and a large scale sex-trafficking operation.
In the post Bourne cinematic era, greedy military contractors have become the go-to villain for political thrillers, allowing liberally minded filmmakers to gripe against global injustice without placing the blame at the feet of any one particular nation or government. As such, the villains in Kobricki’s film, of both the sleazy sex trafficking and suit-and-tie wearing variety, carry out their repulsive acts with typically one-dimensional immorality. Weisz’s performance is excellent as per usual, but her character is not well developed – her nobleness is a plot requisite, while the mentions of her estranged daughter feel forced, and are dropped entirely by the conclusion of the film.
The Whistleblower is also a serious contender for the most visually ugly movie of the year. Kondracki, in an ill-advised attempt to enhance the already grim quality of the subject matter, shoots the picture like a ten dollar snuff film. The camera wobbles interminably, images frequently blur in and out of focus, and bright, unfiltered light shines harshly into the lens – truly, the optical cacophony is so unpleasant that it nearly renders the film unwatchable.
Yet in spite of these complaints, as a by-the-numbers political thriller – the comfort food of movie genres – The Whistleblower doesn’t fail to satisfy. Never dull, it proves that it is practically impossible to make an uninteresting movie about sex slavery; the stakes are as high as they come, and there is at least some measure of suspense in the third act where our heroine’s righteous cause comes increasingly under threat. It’s low praise, but that’s all it deserves. As it stands it’s enough to earn the film a very mild recommendation.