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Whiteout (2009)

See Your Last Breath.

Starring:

Alex O'Loughlin

Columbus Short

Gabriel Macht

Jesse Todd

Joel Keller

Kate BeckinsaleKate Beckinsale

Shawn Doyle

Tom Skerritt

Directed by:

Dominic Sena

Rating: 4/10

The commercials lied. The trailers lied. Yet, somehow, even though I didn’t really know WHAT exactly was going on from watching them, I thought I had an idea. I didn’t. What looks like a survival-in-the-snow meets, perhaps, some unfriendly aliens or underground supernatural forces turns out, pretty early on, to be a procedural crime drama with little mystery in its whodunit and its only real uniqueness coming from its sometimes effective use of a brutal, barren, unforgiving climate.

See, it’s very cold in Antarctica, so US Marshall Carrie Stetko (Kate Beckinsale) has retreated to the frozen tundra where crime never really happens after a major betrayal went down in Miami with her former partner. Now, just as she’s about to get out of this land of ice and snow, however, a body is found out in the middle of nowhere, and as it’s obviously the victim of a homicide, Carrie is dragged into a mystery that may cost not only her chance to leave before a major storm hits, but her life, when she’s stuck in her isolated facility with a killer.

There are some really good things about Whiteout, most of which revolve around the setting. Antarctica is an unforgiving, freezing place, and even though there are some obvious liberties taken (Kate Beckinsale wouldn’t have a face left if it were out in those conditions as much as it was here), the bleak isolation and claustrophobia inherent in such a place makes a very suspenseful landscape. One chase early on is especially effective, pitting Carrie, alone, against both a masked assailant and the procedure necessary to navigate the elements.

Where the film is a letdown, though, is in its mediocrity. The dialogue, the story, even the supposed “twist,” are all rote and by the book. Beckinsale does a nice job projecting the tough girl persona needed for her US Marshall role, and save for a ridiculous stripping and shower scene in the first ten minutes that show nothing, she’s never just the “hot chick,” more the “competent cop with a bad script.” Tom Skerritt as her only real friend in the ice Doc is also very good, but again, what he’s given to say isn’t high quality stuff. Filmed entirely in Canada, some of the cinematography is beautiful, but other times, such as the climactic chase out in the snow, are hindered by blowing snow and cumbersome parkas that left me guessing who was actually out there fighting. Also—and I hate to mention the end of a movie, so be warned this may be a spoiler—there’s a Point Break to the last bit. Seriously.

It's Got: Sometimes effective use of location, a sense of isolation, unachieved potential

It Needs: Better dialogue, better story, better pay-off

Alternatives:

Alien, Insomnia

Summary

Whiteout could’ve been a taut, suspenseful crime thriller, but instead, it’s a lot of bad dialogue and dull mystery that leads up to a lackluster climax — but the snow is pretty.

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