Many scenes in this film, based on true events, are hard to watch. But what is even more disturbing is the thought nagging at during it all that reality was probably even worse. The abuse of power, subsequent cover up and government corruption depicted in the film will leave you burning with anger. Especially the last words on the screen that let us know that U.S. has still engaged the same type of security firm in Iraq and Afghanistan. You can be sure the corruption continues. Once again history has not taught us any lessons that have sunk in.
First time director Larysa Kondracki (Canadian) wisely keeps her involvement in the film to a minimum, as she showed the confidence to allow the disturbing story and fine acting of Rachel Weisz take the forefront.
Kathy Bolkovac (Rachel Weisz – The Mummy, The Constant Gardener) is an American police officer from Lincoln, Nebraska who has decided to take a lucrative ($100,000 tax free) job with private security firm Democra in post-war Bosnia. Kathy is a divorced woman who was not awarded custody of her daughter. A big part of the reason why she has taken the well paying job is to fund her fight for her daughter that the courts awarded to her husband. She is there thinking that with the U.N.’s help that she is there to help rebuild the justice system in the destroyed country. Soon after being appointed to the head of the U.N.’s Gender Division by Madeleine Rees (Vanessa Redgrave – Mission:Impossible, Howards End), head of the U.N.’s Human Rights Division, she realizes that this was just a pipedream.
The U.N. Gender Division investigates such crimes as sexual assaults, domestic violence and sex trafficking. Soon Kathy is dealing with two Ukrainian girls who have been kidnapped, beaten, threatened, and forced to work in a Bosnian brothel until they work off their “debt”. Once she gets the reluctant girls to testify against those responsible things begin to unravel showing Kathy that it is a conspiracy that goes deep (and high) and that her own life and career is in danger.
Rarely have you seen an actress ably portray determination like Weisz does in this film. She is able to realistically convey her character’s refusal to give in or up. No matter the costs. It is a thriller that she elevates with her performance. Wanting to do the right thing, but flawed, Kathy is a character us everyday folk can relate to. And someone you root for unfailingly.
Kudos also have to be given once again to co-screenwriter/director Larysa Kondracki for elevating the story from one that is just a thriller to moving and layered film filled with well-rounded out characters. The well developed and researched story means it is elevated from one that simply points out the horrors that happened to these women in post-war Bosnia to one that shows empathy while inciting viewers to take action against it happening again. It also ably walks the line of making it too harsh a watch and as such dissuading most from watching the film. The film is as accessible as a film about such a horrific situation can be.