Sunday, February 17, 2019

Movie Minute: Whiteout

by M.J. Hamada (writer), Santa Monica, September 14, 2009


Watching snow melt is more entertaining.

Antarctica. Murder. Kate Beckinsale. You'd think there would be something worthwhile here. Think again.

Directed by Dominic Sena and based on the graphic novel of the same name, Whiteout stars Kate Beckinsale as Carrie Stetko, a U.S. deputy marshal assigned to Antarctica. Planning to head back to the States before a whiteout occurs and darkness sets in for half a year, Carrie investigates a body found in the snow and detects foul play. Change of plans. Soon, a masked, axe-wielding killer emerges, and more bodies start piling up. Carrie needs to solve this mystery before she becomes the next victim.

Sounds intriguing, doesn't it? That's because the story works on paper—that is, on the pages of the graphic novel—but it doesn't translate to the big screen. Not in this case. Not with this director.

One might think that successful comics-to-screen movies must have stories about superheroes, but that isn't always the case. Take these films, all based on graphic novels: A History of Violence, Road to Perdition, From Hell. Solid films from solid directors (David Cronenberg, Sam Mendes and the Hughes brothers, respectively). If one of these filmmakers had been at the helm, Whiteout would be a much different—and more enjoyable—experience. Alas, what we have is Dominic Sena's version.

What's so bad about Whiteout? It is bland, predictable and just plain un-fun. Some specifics:

  • About five minutes in, an overlong burn-in appears (along with a tinkling, "this is the sound of cold" effect) to inform audiences about the mysterious continent known as Antarctica ("So you're saying it's cold down there?").
  • Kate Beckinsale is more human playing a vampire in one of her Underworld flicks.
  • Gabriel Macht (of The Spirit) gives just as wooden a performance. What's more, some of his dialogue sounds like it has been dubbed. Was his voice not working that day? Very odd.
  • The main bad guy's identity isn't a surprise, and savvy viewers will know it the moment the character first enters the scene.  (If you've seen The Da Vinci Code or Minority Report, you're familiar with this formula.)
  • The location never feels essential to the story. The Thing's Antarctica adds to the desolation, tension and creepiness. Here, the location could be any isolated place.
  • The bad CGI snow breaks one's suspension of disbelief.
  • The exterior action scenes have been shot and edited in such a way that it's sometimes difficult to know what we're looking at (with all those flurries of bad CGI snow). It's also sometimes difficult to care.

Still, Whiteout does have a few (no, a couple; no, a few) things going for it.

  • Beckinsale's first scenes, in which she enters the base, courses through a corridor, turns into her room and strips down for a hot shower.
  • Two of Beckinsale's fingers.
  • Tom Skerritt (who could be mistaken here for Kris Kristofferson).

Last checked, Whiteout had 80 reviews and an 8% "freshness" rating at Rotten Tomatoes. Here are phrases from some of those reviews: "Cold turkey"; "What a stiff"; "Will leave you cold"; "Whiteout is a washout"; "Whiteout wipes out." 

Conclusion: Stay away from this mess. For the ultimate Antarctica movie, rent John Carpenter's The Thing.

About the Writer

M.J. Hamada is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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