It's frightening that in the 21st century sex trafficking is becoming a bigger issue each year. The reason is simple — it's extremely profitable. Young women are stolen and forced to pay off some imaginary debt that never ends. If they run or talk, they are brutalized. The problem is only worse in the chaos of war zones. But in the early part of the century, the sex trafficking scandal that rocked the U.N. and its contractors was beyond repulsive. Those tasked with protecting the citizens of Bosnia where participating in the rape of them.
Based on the true life scandal, this thriller follows Kathryn Bolkovac (Rachel Weisz, THE CONSTANT GARDENER), a Nebraska cop who signs on to be a peacekeeper in Bosnia for the big paycheck. When she gets there she discovers that many of her fellow peacekeepers are too there for the paycheck, but nothing else. Her efforts to bring some law and order to the country are noticed by higher up human rights activist Madeleine Rees (Vanessa Redgrave, ANONYMOUS). Bolkovac is put in charge of women's issues and soon discovers sex clubs where the "waitresses" have been forced there against their will. At first she is appalled to find that U.N. officers are frequenting these clubs, but it only gets worse the deeper she goes.
Larysa Kondracki's film uses the structure of the tried and true internal affairs cop thriller. This makes this difficult story both accessible and engaging, but it never breaks free from the structure. This becomes very apparent toward the end when plot structure and efforts to amp up the tension force credibility to the side. The true life message loses some of its authenticity in the process.
Ever since her Oscar win for CONSTANT GARDENER, Weisz seems very suited for theses kinds of roles. It's the kind of role Jane Fonda use to play, but Weisz doesn't dip into the sanctimonious outrage Fonda sometimes exuded. Weisz comes off more matter of fact — like it's just the right thing to do.
The story is given an emotional side through the plight of Raya (Roxana Condurache), a young girl sold into slavery by someone close to her. Kathryn saves her from one awful situation to put her into another one. The path to get Raya back home is filled with political landmines. Bureaucrat Laura Levin (Monica Bellucci, IRREVERSIBLE) can't help her get back home because she doesn't have a passport and she doesn't have a passport because her captors took it so she can't get home. Raya is afraid to trust the system, which we come to find is a very valid feeling when it lets her down and puts her back in the clutches of her enslaver.
As Kathryn uncovers how deep the corruption goes, she becomes more and more isolated. It goes too high and would embarrass important people at the contractor, U.N. and the U.S. government. Madeleine teams her with internal affairs officer Peter Ward (David Strathairn, GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK.), but how much he can protect her is in question too. Will she have time to save Raya before the powers that be crush her?
The most haunting part is that while Kathryn's claims were validated by a British labor tribunal, nothing has happened. No one has been charged with crimes. DynCorp., the security firm that provided the peacekeepers, is still used by the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan. Makes you rethink a lot.
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