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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: The Whistleblower

January 23rd, 2012

The Whistleblower - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray

The Whistleblower opened in limited release in early August, which is not exactly prime real estate for such a film, especially a film that has some Awards Season buzz prior to its release. It missed the $10,000 mark during its opening, but did hold on long enough to get to $1 million in total. With so many Oscar hopefuls playing in theaters, and a few hitting the home market recently, will this film be able to stand out?

The Movie

The film takes place in post war Bosnia. Rachel Weisz plays Kathryn Bolkovac, a divorced cop living in Lincoln, Nebraska, who is trying to get a transfer so she can be closer to her daughter. (Her ex-husband is moving.) When the transfer doesn't come through, her boss tells her about an offer. The government needs peacekeepers in Bosnia and the company that won the contract, Democra Security, are paying $100,000 for six months of work. It means being even farther away from her daughter, but at least the money will help her close her mortgage and move when she gets back.

Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina isn't like home. There are very few women with any authority, (she bunks with Zoe, who is one of the few women in the peacekeepers). The country is still dealing with the wounds of war crimes and bigotry between the three main ethnic groups. Religious hatred is rampant. Crimes against women are rarely investigated and almost never prosecuted. Kathy does her best to help change the status quo and it isn't long before she makes at least a little progress. This gets her the attention of Madeleine Rees, who makes her the head of the Gender Affairs division. Unfortunately, the demands on her time are such that she has trouble making any impact.

That is until she meets Raya and Irka, two young ladies we met in the prologue. Raya and Irka were supposed to travel from the Ukraine to Bosnia to work in a hotel, but instead were forced into prostitution. It's a horrible story, but as Kathy digs deeper she learns this isn't an isolated incident and the people she works with are involved and, because they are here on a U.N. Peacekeeping mission, they are immune to prosecution. But that won't stop her from at least trying save these girls.

This is a very difficult movie to watch. It has some of the worst aspects of torture porn, which is even more difficult to get through, as it is based on a true story. At times, many of these scenes felt exploitative, which is certainly a negative, but given the subject matter, there's no way to really soften it up without destroying the realism. The film is also aided by an amazing performance by many veteran actors: Rachel Weisz, David Strathairn, Vanessa Redgrave, and others. Newcomer Roxana Condurache was equally impressive. Finally, the film had an atmosphere that is better than most thrillers and the tension is so powerful as to have a physical impact upon the viewer.

In short, it is an excellent movie with a very important real world story to tell, but not one most people will enjoy watching.

The Extras

The only extra on the DVD or the Blu-ray is a five-minute featurette on the real Kathy Bolkovac. The Blu-ray is not a visual fest. A lot of the film takes place at night and in poorly lit rooms. That said, the transfer is very good and does an excellent job with what it has. Solid detail levels, deep blacks, strong colors and good contrast, with no compression issues or print damage. The audio is also good, but not great. There's not a lot of activity from the surround sound speakers, for the most part. It doesn't feel boring either. The dialogue is very clear, which is the most important aspect of the mix for a movie like this.

The Verdict

The Whistleblower is a movie that is worth owning. The only complaint I have is with the lack of substantial extras on the DVD and the Blu-ray. Had it had an audio commentary track, deleted scenes, making of featurettes, etc., then it would have been a contender for Pick of the Week.

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Filed under: Video Review, The Whistleblower