THE WHISTLE-BLOWER (2001)

Director: Ben Bolt (LA Law, Natural Lies, Hill Street Blues, An Unsuitable Job for a Woman)

Writing by: Patrick Harbinson (ER, Dark Angel, Hornblower: The Duchess and the Devil, Millennium, Red Cap)

Starring: Amanda Burton, Neil Pearson, Bill Paterson, Emma Cuniffe, Charlotte Salt, Liam Hess

Produced by: Jessica Pope
Executive Producers: Pippa Harris and Jane Tranter

Genre: Mystery/crime drama

Broadcast on BBC America (cable) as a four-hour drama (check local TV schedule for repeat times/dates or check BBC America website at www.bbcamerica.com)

Reviewed by Cherie Jung

This is going to be a tough one to find, but well worth the effort.

I stumbled on this drama one weekend afternoon when I was killing some time and there seemed to be nothing on the television worth watching. I had missed the first half hour or so, but I had no trouble in picking up where I started. Initially, I assumed the program was a two-hour movie. Imagine my surprise when at the end of two hours, the movie kept going for another two hours. And in my case, the station aired a repeat of the entire four-hour drama immediately following the first showing so I stayed until I got all caught up with the beginning of the program and then just kept sitting there watching it again. Over the next two days, I found myself flipping the channel back to BBC America during "encore" performances (re-runs) of the program and getting hooked on it each time.

The story is a bit complicated yet not really complicated at all. A bank clerk, overlooked for a promotion, decides to report other members of the bank for their activities in laundering drug cartel money. The good guys aren't sure she's being straight with them, but she does seem to know what's going on with all of that money, where it came from and where it went. The bad guys, of course, set out to make her look like one of them. The viewer isn't sure what's going on so we have to tag along and see what comes of it. In the meantime, there are entanglements everywhere and you have to pay attention to what is going on around everyone if you hope to figure this out before the final scene.

The most compelling aspect of this situation is that prosecution of the bankers means that Laura Tracey (Amanda Burton) and her family will be forced to give up everything and everyone they've ever known and bury themselves in the witness protection program. Easier said than done. Laura seems to have little trouble adapting, but it is less easy for her husband Dominic (Neil Pearson), a university professor and their two children, Daniel (Liam Hess) a young boy and Sasha (Charlotte Salt) a teenage girl. Although it's a rather exciting adventure at first for Daniel, it's an unwanted ordeal for Sasha who is experiencing her first love with a fellow student.

Almost as compelling as the upheaval that surrounds the family is the inherent danger confronting the police officers assigned to the case. It is no easy task for the police officers to keep the family safe from themselves and from the drug lords who strongly believe that if everyone involved in the case were dead, there'd be no case.

For the husband and children, "protection" becomes not only an isolating experience, but a claustrophobic one as well.

If you've seen the movie "The Insider" starring Russell Crowe about a whistle-blower in the tobacco industry, you'll have some idea of what it means to be forced to give up everything you've known in your life and the unpleasant consequences that ensue. "The Whistle-Blower" manages to vividly convey the desperation of the family members who have lost complete control of their lives through no fault or action of their own.

In the end, especially for the family members, the police and the prosecuting attorneys, if asked if it was all worth it, I'm not sure their answer would be "yes."

Throughout the four-hour drama there are enough twists and turns to keep most mystery fans happy, although I felt the final scene was weak and unsatisfactory. But that's just my opinion. I'm sure others will think the ending is just right. For those of you who can't imagine yourself sitting through four hours of TV, there's always the VCR option so you can watch as much of it at a time as you want to.

If BBCAmerica doesn't replay this program soon, I hope one of the other cable channels that pick up BBC programs, like PBS or A&E will broadcast the program. I'm ready to watch it again, and this time, I'm going to remember to tape it!

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