Google+ Cinema Viewfinder: Transfiguration

Thursday, August 4, 2011


Whistleblower films on DVD and Blu-ray

by Tony Dayoub

What is our attraction to movies about whistleblowers? Is it our admiration of one loner speaking truth to power when confronted with an injustice that person may have been a party to? Or is it our own distrust of the establishment, an inborn characteristic in the more rebellious of us, conscious of the way our own place in the world came to be when our forefathers overthrew the armed forces of their mother country? It’s arguable whether the humdrum phone hacking scandal — which started with the News of the World and has embroiled everyone from its parent company’s CEO, Rupert Murdoch, to talk show host Piers Morgan — registered much with the average American until the mysterious death of 47-year-old Sean Hoare. A former reporter for the British tabloid, Hoare was one of the first to expose the newspaper’s questionable methods of acquiring information. Speculation immediately drifted towards some conspiracy angle despite Hoare’s notorious abuse of drugs and alcohol.

Perhaps the real point of interest for moviegoers is something simpler. Endemic to almost any film lover is a fascination with a character’s evolution over the course of a story. In most genres the evolution unfolds slowly as the story unwinds. What makes the whistleblower movie unique is the explosive epiphany that alters its central character’s perception of a world he thought he knew. Nowhere is this best communicated than in the ravings of the mad Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkinson) of Michael Clayton who, in the film’s opening monologue, describes his own awakening: “… I’m suddenly consumed with the overwhelming sensation that I’m covered with some sort of film. It’s in my hair, my face. It’s like a glaze, like a ... a coating and, at first I thought, oh my god, I know what this is, this is some sort of amniotic, embryonic, fluid. I’m drenched in afterbirth. I’ve breached the chrysalis. I’ve been reborn…” Our complicity in this character’s rebirth enlists us to join him in a frustrating, uphill journey to uncover the truth, a recipe for good drama. And until our hero has convinced his associates, a whistleblower film grips us.

Here are a handful of movies, some notable, some gaining respect and, honestly, some from left field that embody the best qualities of this absorbing genre.


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