The Whistleblower

Year: 2011
Production Co: Samuel Goldwyn Films
Director: Larysa Kondracki
Writer: Eilis Kirwan/Larysa Kondracki
Cast: Rachel Weisz, Vanessa Redgrave, Monica Bellucci, David Strathairn

A strong, quality and worthy issues movie and – if you can endure several harrowing scenes – one worth watching if only to put you in touch with the human cost of a social epidemic. It was certain to attract the attention of a serious dramatic actress, and Rachel Weisz is certainly one.

She plays an everywoman police officer in the US who's lost her kids in a divorce and stands to lose contact with them altogether when they move away. She needs money fast, so takes a job she hears about around the traps advising/policing the rubble of the former Yugoslav states for the UN in the late 90s.

Once there Kathryn (Weisz) uncovers a sickening trade in young women to be dancers and hookers in dingy bars, and it looks like a clean cut case of sex trafficking by local hoodlums until the stink rises higher and higher, eventually revealing itself to be coming from her own organisation, where senior peacekeeping staff are enabling and patronising the trade.

The film takes pains to paint Kathryn as an accidental hero, wanting nothing more than to take what she's learned to the higher authorities and see justice done, but as the corruption is revealed at ever-higher levels she becomes aware how dangerous it's getting to open her mouth.

But the emotional hook for both her and us is a young Russian girl tricked into sex slavery that becomes Kathryn's crusade as she realises all these poor young women have nobody to help them but her.

It leaves a little space for a broadside at the institutions supposed to help in the character of Laura (Bellucci), a high level public servant in a plush office who talks the talk and makes promises but whose organisation dithers and does nothing.

For the last 20 minutes or so it turns into very tense spy vs spy stuff as Kathryn tries to smuggle records out of her old office to prove what's going on to the press, her last resort.

As you expect, the final superscript explains not only that nothing of any consequence was done at the time, but that the collusion and ineptitude of the various forces of justice around the world have seen human trafficking explode. Nowadays it's on a par with illicit drugs and its existence should make everyone alive ashamed.

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