Whiteout – Review

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Director: Dominic Sena
Notable Cast: Kate Beckinsale, Gabriel Macht, Tom Skerritt

In October 2007, Warner Brothers president of production Jeff Robinov declared that the studio would no longer do movies with women as leads. The announcement came after The Brave One (starring Jodie Foster) and The Invasion (starring Nicole Kidman) failed to find much of an audience at the box office. Unfortunately for Whiteout, which wrapped production in July of that same year, it had a female protagonist in Kate Beckinsale. Finally getting a theatrical bow, the movie comes in a month where studios are still trying to get over the summer blockbuster hangover. (Translation: uh-oh.)

The murder mystery set in a South Pole research station gets off to a good start with a scene that serves no purpose to the story. It involves a federal marshal (Kate Beckinsale) stripping out of her three layers of clothing and taking a shower. No reason is given for the shower, but honestly, do you need one? Beckinsale plus a hot shower equals eye candy. The shower ends way too abruptly, however, and for the remainder of Dominic Sena’s thriller she’s sporting a parka and gloves – much to the displeasure of men everywhere.

Sadly, that is the film’s biggest highlight, as everything else crammed into this bitterly cold mystery makes it a prime candidate to be the pilot episode for CSI: Antarctica.

Beckinsale plays Carrie Stetko, who requested the South Pole posting after a particular on-the-job incident left her on edge. Her duties are counteractive: a few minor misdemeanors here and there. Oftentimes her job is no different than a camp counselor or resident advisor, keeping a watchful eye over the young scientists at the station.

But after two years she’s ready to leave the inhabitable land and go someplace warm. All ready to bid adieu, she receives word of a corpse being spotted by a weather balloon.

The dead man, a geologist, has been murdered. His face looks like it was on the losing side of a meat grinder. The gathered clues lead Carrie to a Russian outpost that appears deserted, except for some more dead bodies and a killer with an ice ax. More clues take Carrie and a popped-out-of-nowhere character, U.N. agent Robert Pryce (Gabriel Macht), to a specific set of latitude and longitude coordinates where they find a downed Soviet transport plane buried in the ice for a half century. (All this is explained in the opening prologue.)

Something important was aboard that plane: an item worth killing for.

The item isn’t revealed until the last possible moment, and Carrie spends most of the movie dodging potential murder suspects looking for the McGuffin.

The potential suspects include Pryce, a pilot (Columbus Short), the research station’s resident MD (Tom Skerritt), and an arrogant Aussie researcher (Alex O’Loughlin), who first makes his appearance sprinting bare-ass naked in 55-below temperatures. Oh sure, that guy’s not hiding anything.

Time is of the essence as the Antarctic winter is blowing straight for the station. If trapped, Carrie and whoever’s left standing will be there for another six months. (If only Carrie could phone a friend and have Wilford Brimley and his trusty shotgun as backup.)

The basis for Whiteout is a graphic novel series by Greg Rucka. Not as well known as Sin City or Watchmen, the novel’s best comparison would be A History of Violence. But whereas Violence is more methodical in the story’s development, Whiteout doesn’t do anything resounding to make it any different than the police procedural series currently on television.

Two teams of writers – Jon and Erich Hoeber and Chad and Carey Hayes – were involved in the adaptation. Anytime you a have a screenplay with more than two writers, hesitation starts to set in. Obviously this is the case of a movie having too many creative types tinkering with the screenplay. All the rewrites and yet they couldn’t correct a story with gaps in logic or remedy the cheesy, uninspiring dialogue.

Dominic Sena’s direction provides a good amount of tension – almost making us forget about the dull story – but the few jump scares are a distraction. We don’t really care about any of the characters, so when the final revelation occurs, it’s a meh. Though, dissecting the antagonist’s motivation after the movie wraps, it could be a metaphor for our current health care crisis.

Other than the year’s most gratuitous shower scene, there’s nothing to see here.

FINAL RATING (ON A SCALE OF 1-5 BUCKETS):




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