By Owen Gleiberman
August 04, 2011 at 04:00 AM EDT
Cary Fukunaga

The Whistleblower

  • Movie

Any somber Canadian art thriller that’s called The Whistleblower leads you to expect a number of things: It will be about hidden crimes, it will showcase corruption in high places, it will feature a protagonist who puts him or herself at risk by dragging the crimes (and the cover-up) into the light. The trick is, can the movie turn all of this into a spontaneous drama of explosive moral action rather than an all-too-familiar conspiracy-film ritual?

The Whistleblower succeeds, even if it hardly rewrites the genre. Based on actual events, it’s staged with an understatement that’s rooted in the muddy squalor of reality. Rachel Weisz has a cold and desolate fury as Kathryn Bolkovac, a hard-bitten, divorced Nebraska cop who takes a job as a U.N. peacekeeper in Bosnia. It’s 1999, and on the outskirts of Sarajevo, Bolkovac discovers a brothel that looks like a frat house with a ? decaying dungeon. That’s because it houses girls who’ve been trafficked. A number of the peacekeepers are clients of the place, but that’s merely the first link in a chain of crime.

Rarely has a movie captured the obscene violence of sex trafficking with such unvarnished grubbiness. In the end, though, The Whistleblower is a corporate thriller. It has an official with bad skin that hints at his inner rot, Vanessa Redgrave and David Strathairn as noble insiders who want to help Weisz (or do they?), and a cache of documents that must be stolen, in a sequence of midnight suspense, from an office. The mind has seen it before, but the heart still beats quickly. B

The Whistleblower

  • Movie
  • R
  • 100 minutes
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  • The Whistleblower