THE WHISTLEBLOWER - DVD of the Week
For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Nov. 6, 2020
EDITOR’S NOTE: Some 33 years ago, two Michael Caine thrillers opened on the same day and I reviewed them in one story, so this review of ‘The Whistleblower’ was part of a two-film package. Here, I’ve deleted the review of ‘The Fourth Protocol,’ but left in the introductory paragraphs that mention both films. This a largely forgotten film but it’s getting a nice, deserved revival in the form of a Blu-ray upgrade from Kino Lorber. My review was published on Sept. 3, 1987, in the Deseret News.
Michael Caine is a busy fellow, making one movie after another. Last year we saw him in “Hannah and Her Sisters” (for which he won an Oscar), “Mona Lisa,” “Sweet Liberty” and “Half Moon Street.”
This year we’ve already seen him in “Jaws The Revenge,” and next month he stars with Sally Field in “Surrender.”
And, if that’s not enough, there are two new Caine features in theaters right now — “The Fourth Protocol” and “The Whistleblower.” And they have several things in common: Both are suspense thrillers, both are set in England, both involve British Intelligence trying to one-up the Russians, and both concern a sincere, loyal government official (or ex-official) who tries to do the right thing against all odds. And both officials are played by Michael Caine.
Unlike the R-rated, exploitive and rapid-fire nature of ‘The Fourth Protocol,’ the PG-rated “The Whistleblower” is not exploitive. Nor is it fast-paced.
Michael Caine, left, John Gielgud, 'The Whistleblower (1987)
This is very much a British film, deliberately paced and much more talky.
There are moments of suspense, but much less in the James Bond, wild-eyed spy tradition used by “The Fourth Protocol” and more in the quiet, methodical manner of John LeCarre’s “The Spy Who Came In from the Cold” or the “Smiley” TV miniseries.
The first half of the film is taken up with former British Intelligence officer Michael Caine, an avowed pacifist who has become rather apathetic, trying to convince his son, a translator of Russian for the government, to ignore the information he receives in his work.
But his son has become disillusioned about what he calls the “Secret World” developed by those in power who feel they can do anything they want — including murder — if it is in the national interest.
Eventually a tragedy prompts Caine to investigate the situation himself and he comes to find that his son was right, and another grave injustice is about to occur. He attempts to interfere.
I’m being deliberately vague about the plotting here because I don’t want to give too much away, but suffice it to say that “The Whistleblower” builds in a way that makes you care tremendously for Caine, his plight and the cause for which he eventually takes a stand.
There’s a wonderful line late in the film where someone asks Caine why he’s doing what he’s doing, in peril of his own safely. He replies, “I want to believe in England again.”
There are many parallels with our own government’s recent problems here, and the audience may find itself echoing the sentiment about America.