Typically when you see a blue helmet on the big screen it means the UN is coming to the rescue.
That’s why they call Hollywood the Dream Factory, one supposes.
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In “The Whistleblower,” the UN is part of a nasty racket covering up sexual abuse in war-torn Bosnia. The film, now available on Blu-ray and DVD, is based on Nebraska cop turned whistleblower Kathryn Bolkovac’s revelations about the UN peacekeepers’ monstrous behavior.
Yes, the film implicates the private security firm working alongside UN officials, but it does so in a matter of fact fashion rarely seen in politically charged films. And best of all is how star Rachel Weisz makes the lead character’s plight worth our admiration without any sanctimonious speeches to overrule our emotions.
Nebraska police officer Kathryn Bolkovac (Weisz) just wants to move closer to her children, now living with her ex-husband in a separate state. But she can’t get the transfer needed to make that happen, and she doesn’t have enough money to simply pick up and leave where she currently lives. So when she learns the UN is paying good money for cops to work on a Bosnian peace-keeping mission in six-month increments she signs up.
The plucky cop soon realizes the scope of the mission is far more than she imagined. Ethnic tensions in the country remain white hot, and her fellow peacekeepers seem more interested in the status quo than bringing real justice to the beleaguered locals.
Kathryn’s cop instincts sniff out something far worse than indifference. Some of the security officials, both UN employees and members of a private security force, are recruiting Ukrainian teenagers to act as sexual slaves for the locals. No one seems to care about the human trafficking save a kindhearted UN official (Vanessa Redgrave in a woefully thin role) and an American (David Strathairn) trying to give Kathryn advice on how to proceed.
Weisz balances her character’s sense of duty with the vulnerable woman inside her. She simply wants to make enough money to leave near her kids, but she can’t ignore the atrocities piling up around her. Kathryn isn’t a saint, although the film skirts the reasons why her daughter was selected to live with her ex, a rarity in legal decisions involving two functional parents.
Kathryn’s flirtations with a local man also play out in an unsatisfactory manner, and the investigative techniques she uses to reveal the sex operation amount to tacking Polaroid pictures on a bulletin board and staring at them very, very hard.
“The Whistleblower” makes the young woman caught in the sex trafficking flesh and blood characters, not blank symbols of corruption. And when the cruel UN types try to bully Kathryn around, the diminutive actress rages against them in convincing fashion.
They picked the right actress to blow this particular whistle.
The Blu-ray edition arrives with one extra feature – “Kathy Bolkovac: The Real Whistleblower” which examines the inspiration behind the film.