Although Whiteout was slightly better than I expected, the film is nothing more than your basic thriller complete with a masked killer, a plucky detective with hidden scars, dangerous situations (most of which could be avoided the slightest hint of common sense), and a late plot twist which is far less surprising than it’s expected to be.
Kate Beckinsale stars as US Marshall Carrie Stetko. Due to an unfortunate case in her past, which we are given glimpses of in flashbacks, Carrie transferred as far from the action as possible. For years she has been the law in the icy wilderness of Antarctica where nothing ever happens.
Until now! Cue the suspenseful music.
Only days before her vacation, when the last planes will leave the Antarctic station for winter, a body is discovered. Carrie will have to put her past behind her and with the help of her doctor friend (a gruffy looking Tom Skerritt) and an agent from the United Nations (Gabriel Macht) she’ll try to find a killer from among the small population of the research station.
The story, adapted by four screenwriters, is based on the comic book mini-series by Greg Rucka and artist Steve Lieber. There’s little to the tale itself, so the film puts most its energy into pushing the tension and focusing on the dangerous environmental conditions. Oh, and of course, coming up with a way for Beckinsale to disrobe!
Part of the problem with the film comes from the very limitations of this environment. With only a scant number of people working at the station there’s little investigation for Carrie to undertake. And, as we’re only introduced to an even smaller handful of subjects, there’s little surprise when the truth is revealed.
The film attempts to make up for these issues by muddying the plot and finding ways to put Beckinsale’s character in danger. Those who want to root for her death might get some cheap thrills out of this but it doesn’t do much to advance the plot.
It’s not a total loss. The tension and sylistic choices hold up for most of the film. Beckinsale is passable in her role, though she wouldn’t have been my first choice for the damaged Carrie (and don’t get me started on those flashbacks!). And Skerritt is truly enjoyable in his small role. That might not add up to much, but, as I said before, it’s more than I was expecting.
There’s a reason this film has been kept on the shelf for more than two years (it was completed in 2007). I’m actually surprised the film wasn’t released straight-to-DVD, which is where it probably belongs.
Keep your expectations low going in. Whiteout isn’t awful; it’s just very, very average, without anything to set it apart from the glut of cheap thrillers out there. But, hey, even in a film which takes place in the Antarctic the director still finds a way to get Kate Beckinsale naked (well, in that PG-13 where you don’t see anything kinda way). That should tell you all you need to know about the demographic the flick is aimed for and the amount of bang you’re going to get for your buck.