Short version: While far from perfect, Whiteout does manage to keep you guessing until the end and ultimately doesn’t leave you feeling ripped off.
Screen Rant’s Paul Young reviews Whiteout
A while back, Kate Beckinsale was asked about her involvement with the next Underworld movie and she explained that she was done wearing tight leather outfits. I thought she might be serious, but man, she didn’t have to go overboard on the next film by walking around 95% of the time wearing a parka! But I’ve got to give credit to whoever wrote the opening scene for Whiteout, Oscar-worthy material my friend – in a scene that was obviously written to appeal to the young male audience, Beckinsale walks through the snow into her room and promptly removes most (read: not enough) of her clothing in order to take a shower.
The scene does nothing to move along, set up, or explain the story of Whiteout and is sure to become “Most Unnecessary (and Gratuitous) Scene of the Year.” That being said, based on the graphic novel by Greg Rucka, Whiteout is a decent enough attempt at a Fall movie season thriller.
Set at a U.S. Geological camp at the South Pole in Antarctica only three days before winter starts, Beckinsale plays U.S. Marshall Carrie Stetko, and she has some issues with trust. When a body, or “popsicle,” is discovered in the ice by pilot Delfy (Columbus Short), Stetko and camp doctor Dr. John Fury (Tom Skerritt) head out to investigate.
Their investigation leads them to realize that a murder has occurred and that the killer is still at large; and, seeing as how they are at the most remote place on the planet, there’s a better than good chance the killer is still in the camp. Along the way, she meets U.N. detective Robert Pryce, played by The Spirit’s Gabriel Macht, and together they hunt the killer and try to recover some lost Russian items.
The writers do a good job of throwing in plenty of misdirection and some red herrings to keep audiences guessing (although I pegged the twist about ¾ of the way through). What director Dominic Sena (Swordfish, Gone in Sixty Seconds) could have left out were all the hazy, orange saturated flashbacks. I sort of understand what he was trying to do with them but he only needed to do it once and not the three or four times he choose to go with. Also, he could have left out the “ah-ha” moment as a flashback. Once the twist is revealed, it’s not that hard to connect the dots and by flashing back Sena insults the audience.
What Whiteout tries to do (emphasis on tries), is make the audience feel the solidarity and aloneness of being at the bottom of the earth, but that’s very hard to do because it seems like dozens of people are living and working down there and it’s a party every day. Heck, I want to go just drink off the “million year old ice.” Here’s a tip for all directors that want me to feel like I’m alone: Stop putting so many people in your film! Stetko is literally alone for maybe 5 minutes the entire film, even the shower scene is interrupted after 30 seconds.
The action scenes in the snow and blizzards are a neat idea but they aren’t really done right because of all the CGI. Everything ends up looking blurry, out of focus and ultimately is just too hard to discern. The idea of fighting in a blizzard does lend itself to some interesting concepts but it just didn’t work here, which leads me to my next point.
There is WAY too much CGI in a movie like this. I have feared for some time now that directors were beginning to lean on the CGI crutch far too often and this just goes to prove my point. The opening scene of a Russian plane flying and then crashing in the Antarctic would have been super cool to watch but the whole thing is done in CG. I don’t see how it’s cheaper to hire a team of CG artists to design everything but the sky instead of just renting a plane for a day and then adding some digital snow but I guess that’s why I don’t sign the checks.
Another thing that bothered me was the ending – I saw it coming long before it happened and it seemed like the writers took the easy way out. The whole scene feels very much like the Necromonger walking into the sun’s rays from Chronicles of Riddick. You’ll know what I mean after you watch it. Also, the killer is very scary and I never really felt Stetko’s anxiety or any impending doom for any of the characters.
I’ve said it before in my Observe and Report review but I don’t really need to see a line of flopping man junk running across the screen for me to enjoy a film. Oh yes, there is a scene like that in Whiteout, it’s short and at the beginning but again, unnecessary to the plot and didn’t help set the mood or surroundings at all. In fact, it goes against everything the movie portrays about the extreme cold at the South Pole. We are told that it gets to -65 degree Celsius and you begin to experience hypothermia after three minutes. Don’t know about you, but I don’t need any frozen tundra down unda!
Overall though, those are minor gripes on a mostly entertaining film. If you’re looking for something new to watch this weekend that isn’t animated, Whiteout is a solid choice and will make for a decent night out. There’s no way it beats out 9 for number one this weekend, but hopefully it puts Gamer out of play and kills off Final Destination for the number two spot.