As I write this review of The Whistleblower, more of a comment, really, I write it with a new nervous twitch. A nervous twitch I developed after being traumatized by what I’d seen. The Whistleblower isn’t happy viewing, nor is it ego-building material or entertaining, those planning on seeing it be warned.
I knew very little about The Whistleblower before going to see it, apart from the fact that it starred a great actor by the name of Rachel Weisz, who plays American police officer, Kathryn Bolkovac. She’s on a month’s assignment for the money, and has no idea what she is walking in to. I had recently re-watched Weisz in another role as a member of the police force opposite Keanu Reeves in the exceptional horror flick, Constantine, as she tried to resolve the apparent suicide of her twin sister and what that meant for a Catholic.
I was lured to watch The Whistleblower, however, by a few things, one of which was the selling power of a great actor. Another was that I’d been given a freebie. I was also lured by a title that promised intrigue and suspense. And by the possibility of being entertained to the max; in other words, get my money’s worth. But that is where the hype quickly began to fade because The Whistleblower is anything but an entertaining movie; well, not a movie in the traditional sense of a movie.
The Whistleblower is more political documentary than pure social commentary. Being completely oblivious of the true origins of the story and its subject matter, as I’d done no background reading, the warning that The Whistleblower was based on a true story wasn’t strong enough warning to prepare me for what they are about to see. I had to admit that I’d been relying on a dictionary definition of the term ‘whistleblower’: An informant who exposes wrongdoing within an organization in the hope of stopping it. The Whistleblower doesn’t have a happy ending.
While I was sitting on the bus, heading to Manuka and the Greater Union cinema there hosting advance screenings of The Whistleblower, I was thinking about movies like the International and Michael Clayton as frames of reference for what I was about to see. Yes, that’s what I was doing. But it wasn’t until a scene involving a couple of Russian school girls that it began to dawn on me that I’d been lured to the film under false pretences, ones I’d created myself. I prepared myself for the worst.
By the time I’d begun being traumatized by what I was seeing, there was only two choices open to me. One, get up and leave, ‘I don’t need to be traumatized tonight, thank you very much’, or stay and learn something. Some people did leave. I wondered how much more I could bear. I was already holding back a tear of two, maybe three, when the major climax of the ‘movie’ arrived. Oh, there’d been a few climaxes along the way, disturbing to watch, all. But as the major climax unfolded before my already pained eyes, and by now seared conscience, the thing I wanted to do then was vomit.
If you’re thinking that my traumatisation and dry retched response to The Whistleblower means I’m giving it a minus score, you’d be totally wrong. Don’t misunderstand me, it’s not a ‘movie’; don’t go to see it as a movie. If you do that, you’ll be disappointed. The Whistleblower is not entertainment; it’s an educational experience. Yes, albeit a painful one. It’s an education in the abuse of power. Yes, that’s it; The Whistleblower is a film about the extreme abuse of power, the total destruction of trust, and the use of mind numbing fear to control.
Rachel Weisz lived up to my expectations of her as a great actor, by the way. My trust in her as an actor was not destroyed by her performance in The Whistleblower. The thing I’m now eager to see, however, is an in-depth interview with her about her role as the whistleblower because I cannot imagine her not also having been deeply moved by what she’d done by staring in this anatomy of a whistleblower and the subject matter she was blowing the whistle on.
The viewer is left with one other disturbing thing about The Whistleblower, and it concerns the issue it deals with, human trafficking during the Bosnian war, or at least some four years post the war, that it is unresolved; it is unresolved because the chain of abuse of power goes all the way to the top of the power tree. Unlike some documentaries, if you expect to find resolution at its closing, you won’t find it. By all means, go see The Whistleblower if you want an education in the extreme abuse of power but do not go to see it if you want to be entertained, go see Johnny English Reborn for that.