For Presidents’ Day: the Lincoln movie

Daniel Day-Lewis in LINCOLN

In late December, we’ll see a movie about perhaps the greatest American made by perhaps our greatest filmmaker.    Steven Spielberg is directing Lincoln, based on Doris Kearn Goodwin’s absorbing Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln.

Daniel Day-Lewis and Sally Field play the Lincolns.  The dazzling cast includes Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tommy Lee Jones, Jared Harris, Jackie Earle Haley, Hal Holbrook, John Hawkes, James Spader, Bruce McGill, David Straithern, Tim Blake Nelson, Walton Goggins (Justified) and Dakin Mathews (the horse trader in True Grit).

The Whistleblower: a potentially riveting story, clumsily told

The Whistleblower is a potentially riveting story, clumsily told.  It’s a paranoid thriller about human trafficking that was tolerated and even assisted by UN peacekeepers in Bosnia.  After seeing this movie, I was determined to debunk its claim of “inspired by real events”.  So I looked up the story and was surprised to learn that it is essentially true.  The problem is that the filmmaking caused me to think it was fictionalized.

Director Larysa Kondracki throws every Hollywood trope at the screen.   The photography is dark when the movie is supposed to be foreboding, and extra dark and jerky when things are supposed to be scary.   To keeps things dark and scary, Weisz uses a flashlight instead of flipping the light switch when entering an uninhabited room.  Several characters exist primarily to give exposition-filled speeches.  Various Eastern Europeans conveniently speak English when they encounter Rachel Weisz.   And Weisz’s character is the only person in Bosnia who drives a jeep around unaccompanied.

The Whistleblower is a vehicle for star Rachel Weisz and she does a good job.   David Straithern and Vanessa Redgrave contribute their customarily excellent performances.  Human trafficking is topical.  But this movie just isn’t up to its subject or its cast.