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Case Number 23417

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The Whistleblower

Fox // 2010 // 112 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Roy Hrab (Retired) // March 1st, 2012

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All Rise...

Judge Roy Hrab once blew the whistle on an illegal oil for Twinkies operation.

Editor's Note

Our review of The Whistleblower (Blu-ray), published January 24th, 2012, is also available.

The Charge

Nothing is more dangerous than the truth.

Opening Statement

We put a lot of trust into our institutions (e.g. political, economic, healthcare). They're supposed look out for us, keep us safe, and clean things up when problems arise. However, all too often, especially in recent years, our institutions fail to do their job. They often fail to acknowledge their faults when they let us down. And sometimes they even seem to be protecting the wrong people.

Facts of the Case

The Whistleblower is based on the true story of Kathryn Bolkovac (Rachel Weisz, The Fountain), a United Nations peacekeeper who uncovered a sex trafficking ring in post-war Bosnia, involving peacekeepers. However, the UN had little interest in the matter, forcing Bolkovac to take matters into her own hands.

The Evidence

Fact is usually as compelling, if not more, than fiction. Yet, in many cases, the makers of fact-based films feel the need to exaggerate certain elements, or create events to goose the story to make it more "cinematic." However, such flourishes typically diminish (and trivialize) the real story. That happens here.

Sex trafficking. Corruption. A cover-up. Persecution of the truth teller. These are the facts upon which The Whistleblower is based. That is enough to make a great movie. Yet, the creators of this film throw in a romantic subplot, a contrived double-cross (which actually isn't), and other forced "thriller" elements, including sneaking out incriminating documents, and Bolkovac furtively writing e-mails to high ranking UN officials. They add nothing to the film. What occurred in real life is an outrage that demands investigation, but the film lingers on superficiality.

By the end of a film like the The Whistleblower the audience should be angry. However, through dwelling on the shallow, the film doesn't delve into the inaction of the UN: Why did they do so little? How is it acceptable? And what about the treatment of Bolkovac after she blew the whistle? And what of the defence contractor that appears to have suffered no ill effects from the scandal? All we get is some text on the screen just before the credits role. Thus, by the end, all we are left with is a vague sense that a lot of horrible stuff took place, and the guilty went unpunished. This should be the heart of the film. It's a wasted opportunity.

The technical aspects are solid. The detail on this standard definition 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is robust, but the color scheme is soft. The Dolby 5.1 audio is clear and crisp, with dialogue, sound effects, and musical score coming through without any problems. Like the Blu-ray release, the lone extra is a short featurette about Kathryn Bolkovac.

Closing Statement

The The Whistleblower tells an important story about institutional inaction and corruption. Unfortunately, this telling of the story is not compelling because it tries to push the film in thriller territory. In better hands, like David Simon (The Wire), this could have been a contender.

The Verdict


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Scales of Justice

Video: 88
Audio: 88
Extras: 15
Acting: 80
Story: 60
Judgment: 68

Perp Profile

Studio: Fox
Video Formats:
• 2.35:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• English (SDH)
• Spanish
Running Time: 112 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Rated R
• Biographical
• Drama
• Thriller

Distinguishing Marks

• Featurette


• IMDb
• Official Site

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