A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this downbeat drama -- which is based on a true story about human trafficking in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1999 -- features disturbing violence involving the teenage victims, who are tortured and brutalized (though most of this is suggested rather than actually shown). A rape sequence focuses on the victim's screams and terror rather than on graphic details of the act, but in another shot, a man shoots a girl point blank in the head (with sprays of blood). Nudity (mostly toplessness) is shown via Polaroid photos but never actually onscreen. The heroine has sex with one of her co-workers, whom (she finds out later) is married. Language includes many uses of "f--k," plus "s--t" and more. The heroine (Rachel Weisz) -- a police officer who wants to save the girls but winds up uncovering layer upon layer of corruption -- is a strong role model, and the material is well-researched and undoubtedly powerful, but this movie is far too intense and depressing for kids or younger teens.
- Parents say
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What's the story?
In 1999, Kathryn Bolkovac (Rachel Weisz) is a cop in Lincoln, Neb., who has lost her daughter in a divorce settlement. She agrees to take a high-paying job as a "peacekeeper" in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where she quickly realizes that laziness and corruption rule the day. Her training and ethics don't allow her to lie down on the job, so she starts working hard. She soon discovers a human trafficking ring in which teen girls are tortured and sold as sex slaves and starts looking for ways to shut it down. In the meantime, Kathryn becomes personally attached to two Ukrainian girls, which brings more trouble and heartache. Worse, the depth and breadth of the corruption is far more considerable than she could have possibly imagined.
Is it any good?
Ukrainian-Canadian filmmaker Larysa Kondracki makes her feature writing and directing debut with THE WHISTLEBLOWER, and it seems to be straddling two Hollywood traditions. It wants to be a true story with a powerful, active female lead -- like Norma Rae, Erin Brockovich, and North Country. But it also wants to be a potboiler, using factual elements as part of a typical thriller (All the President's Men, JFK, The Insider). Unfortunately, the thriller stuff is very soft, and the docudrama stuff is too focused on "Oscar moments" (i.e. huge expressions of outrage and torment).
Yet Kondracki has clearly done some research here, and in between the awkward moments of finding bugs in phones and stealing satchels full of classified documents, the movie carefully tells a horrifying tale of human trafficking and the severe cruelty it inflicts in exchange for a massive profit. If the movie serves a purpose, aside from Weisz's powerhouse performance, it's to impart information about this important issue.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the movie's graphic violence. What impact does it have? Would showing additional details have changed that impact? How?
Is the type of trafficking/prostitution shown here about sex, or is it more about power and money? Why?
What's the appeal of dark, serious movies? How often do you choose those over lighter fare? Why?
- In theaters: August 5, 2011
- On DVD or streaming: January 24, 2012
- Cast: David Strathairn, Monica Bellucci, Rachel Weisz
- Director: Larysa Kondracki
- Studio: Samuel Goldwyn Company
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 112 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: disturbing violent content including a brutal sexual assault, graphic nudity and language
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.