Whiteout (2009)

Directed By: Dominic Sena
Written By: Eric Hoeber
  Jon Hoeber
Starring: Kate Beckinsale
  Gabriel Macht
  Tom Skerritt

Whiteout is a hugely predictable and occasionally dull thriller that smacks with a potential that it barely touches. Beautifully shot but terribly made, this is a waste of time and an ugly addition to the snow-bound horror genre.

Carrie Stetko (Kate Beckinsale) has quit her job as the most pointless US Marshal on Earth, having policed the least populated place on the planet for years. Naturally it’s her last day and she finds a corpse on the ice, featuring pickaxe wounds and a distinctly crushed face. Facing the prospect of the first murder in Antarctica’s history, Stetko rushes around the various abandoned ice-bases in search of clues, hoping to discover the murderer before the impending whiteout storm consumes everything in sight. Finding more corpses and fighting a mystery assailant, Stetko realizes she’s been thrown into a violent conspiracy involving a crashed Cold War plane, a hidden cargo and a group of crazed scientists willing to do anything to obtain the contents of “the box”. As exciting as this may sound, Whiteout is sadly far from thrilling, and the movie meanders along at a leisurely pace, occasionally injecting some fast-paced action into it before returning to a brooding Beckinsale and suspicious bit characters who mutter about distrust and vomit out cheesy flashbacks. It is expected and so unoriginal it comes close to being angering.

Whiteout is visually splendid, with some beautiful icescapes and harrowing snow-storms, but this well created visualization of Antarctica cannot make up for the shockingly trite storyline. The level of intrigue and thrill only exists because you spend the film wondering what a downed soviet plane could possibly hold that would incite a bunch of snow-bound scientists into murder and betrayal.

With Pearl Harbour, Van Helsing and the Underworld Trilogy behind her, Brit-born Kate Beckinsale really needed a career boost in terms of respectability. Sadly Whiteout isn’t it. This by-the-numbers whodunit blunders along at an expected pace, knocking out corpses and dull dialogue with shameless abandon, leaving Beckinsale with a stereotyped character who gets to do nothing interesting except have some nasty frostbitten surgery.

Tragically Whiteout had such strong potential to be a taut creepy horror and failed completely, opting for a mad blend of slasher flick meets crime-fighting female Indiana Jones in the snow. Some may spend the majority of the film hoping the soviet cargo contains some kind of chemical weaponry that causes hysteria or murderous behaviour, but instead it is something so incredibly bland it is crushingly disappointing. The themes of trust and isolation are explored at length and, coupled with the otherworldly feel of the dominating ice fields, it succeeds in encapsulating a spooky aura of fear and uncertainty that it never fully invests in.

The coincidences are screamingly stupid, the reasons for the murders completely idiotic and the characters’ decisions horribly misjudged. It’s a frustrating watch, and sometimes incredibly dumb. Whiteout is occasionally lovely to look at, but it is a pointless piece of filmmaking that bores more than thrills. There is no need to watch this.

Rating: ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆

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