The wind hammers at 100 MPH. The temperature plummets to -120 F. Nature doesn't intend for people at Amundsen-Scott Research Station to survive Antarctica. Neither does a mysterious killer who has committed the first-ever murderon that most remote of continents...and who will certainly kill again. "Underworld's" Kate Beckinsale plays a U.S. Marshal plunged into shocking mystery and racing to solve it before being stranded with six months of winter darkness - and a murderer- closing in. Dominic Sena ("Swordfish") directs a talented cast including Gabriel Macht, Tom Skerritt and Alex O'Loughlin in Dark Castle Entertainment's action-packed thriller. Another key player isthe stunning, wind-whipped icescape. One way or another, it will take your breath away.
Not many kind things were said about long-gestating thriller "Whiteout" when it was released in theatres- somehow, critics unanimously found something to hate about the film. The reality, as this reviewer found out, is not nearly as bad. Based on the graphic novel by Steve Lieber and Greg Rucka, "Whiteout" is really just a standard-issue thriller wrapped around a unique setting.
The place is Antarctica, described as an uninhabitable place where the wind hammers at 100 mph and the temperature drops to -120° F. Out on a research station against this backdrop, a body is found. Were it death by hypothermia, no one would raise a ruckus (and we wouldn't have a movie). Turns out however that the person was murdered, so U.S. Marshal Carrie Stetko (Kate Beckinsale) suddenly finds herself in charge of a homicide investigation.
Oh, to make it a race against time, there's also the fact that a winter storm closing in, heralding the impending winter darkness, a six-month stretch the place won't see the rays of the sun. Truth be told, this is a story that could have been told anywhere else, and in fact has been told in different forms many times before. But the ingenuity behind the concept of "Whiteout" lay in the utter bleakness of winter, a feeling of sheer desolation one gets just by being in such a place- and hence too the backstory with Stetko’s last arrest gone awry, told in various flashbacks throughout the movie.
It wasn't about what was happening, but also where it was happening- and in that regard, gave Stetko's troubled past and the case before Stetko a novel edge. Unfortunately, director Dominic Sena only succeeds mildly in translating that bleakness to screen. True there are many shots that establish the stark beauty of the place, covered with snow, isolated from civilisation and plunged in greyness- but aside from that, Sena fails to make an association between the austerity of his physical surroundings with that of his characters or his story.
So instead of the edgy thriller we were expecting, "Whiteout" is no more than about a cop in search of a killer while hunting for the truth behind a series of murders. And though a total of 4 writers (Jon and Erich Hoeber, Chad and Carey Hayes) worked on the script, it seemed like none of them had much inspiration to deviate from formula. Instead, the story is told so matter-of-factly that it doesn't take a genius to figure out who the mastermind really is- never mind the supposed twist in the finale.
Perhaps to pique his audiences' interest, Sena introduces Beckinsale through an unnecessary bathroom scene where we see Beckinsale strip to her knickers, take off her top (from the back of course) and step into the shower. There's no denying Beckinsale is beautiful or the fact that Sena knows she is, so despite the windswept surrounds, not one strand of hair is usually out of place when we see Beckinsale.
Ultimately though, the actress deserving of much better material than this and more "Underworld" sequels puts in her action heroine best but is once again let down by a movie that could have been more, much more. As it is, "Whiteout" is plain mediocre, a movie that won't leave you in the cold but doesn't offer much more to get your heart racing.
SPECIAL FEATURES :
There are just two deleted scenes here- the first is a rather humourous scene about the certain theft of a botany sample (aka "weed") that one of the lab techs report to Kate Beckinsale's Marshal Stetko; and the other provides some advice how you should greet Russians when you need their cooperation.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 keeps the Antarctic snow whirling around you throughout the movie, while the pristine visuals make you want to take a trip down South.
by Gabriel Chong
Posted on 2 February 2010