Friday, August 19, 2011


Most war movies are made for and by men—violent, testosterone jubilees about courage under fire, incredible battlefield heroics, and hard-fought victories. Canadian-born Ukrainian filmmaker Laysa Kondracki takes a different approach in her intense and harrowing drama, The Whistleblower. Not only does she view the process of war from a feminine perspective, she explores the lingering and devastating consequences of warfare on women long after the mission has supposedly been accomplished and the fighting troops have gone home.

The film is based on the true story of Kathryn Bolkovac, a police officer from Nebraska who joined the UN peacekeeping forces in war-ravaged Bosnia in 1999. While there, she uncovered a horrifying sex-trafficking ring involving teenage Balkan girls that her superiors were surprisingly uninterested in doing anything about. Kondracki and her writing partner Ellis Kirwan traveled around Europe for two years, researching the facts and writing the script. The resulting film leaves the viewer breathless with both suspense and outrage.

Playing against type as a de-glamorized, working-class Yank, Rachel Weisz gives us an earnest, perfectly life-sized Kathy whose fierce moral courage both propels and grounds the film. (Read more)

Forget La Tour Eiffel. The back alleys and industrial warehouses of Paris are the backdrop for the electrifying chase thriller, Point Blank, from French action maestro Fred Cavayé. Gilles Lellouche is wonderful as Samuel, a male nurse plunged into a desperate mission to save his pregnant wife (an appealing Elena Anaya), and their unborn child; she's been kidnapped by thugs to force him to spring a notorious criminal (Roschdy Zem) from the hospital.

As he struggles to outwit crooks, cops, and crooked cops, appearances deceive, alliances shift, and tensions mount by the nanosecond. But what I really loved about it is the degree of characterization, unusual for such a breakneck-paced thriller. Lellouche's Samuel is a scruffy average guy, and the playful degree to which he and his spirited Spanish wife are mutually besotted and delighted over their impending child is limned in just a few, deft scenes.

Factor in tensions between rival police detectives and their teams vying to catch the fugitives, a scandalous frame-up, and an incriminating videotape—none of which matters to Samuel as he does whatever he must to save his wife—and voila! 84 of the most turbo-charged minutes you'll spend at the movies all summer.

So hold on to your ratatouille; this is one fierce, wild ride.

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