Movie Review: Whiteout
By Matthew Huntley
September 21, 2009

That does look thrilling.

Whiteout is a murder mystery that takes place in Antarctica. I tell you this up front because the movie's location is all it really has going for it. Everything else is either irrelevant or inconsequential.

In the movie, U.S. Marshal Carrie Stetko (Kate Beckinsale) is called out to investigate a dead body that's been spotted hundreds of miles from the nearest human contact. How did it end up there, and why is the corpse's head smashed in? These are two questions I wish I had wanted to ask, but honestly, I didn't care.

Stetko is the only symbol of law in the area. She volunteered for the position after suffering a traumatic experience with her partner in Miami. For the past year, she's been carrying a heavy weight of guilt and uncertainty on her shoulders, which we come to understand from flashbacks, but the movie thinks these scenes are more meaningful and revealing than they really are.

The investigation brings Stetko and a UN operative named Pryce (Gabriel Macht) to different regions of the tundra as they try to connect a plane crash from 30 years ago with the recent events, which include a couple of run-ins with a masked killer and his sharp ice tool. The killer is supposed to provide the movie its tension, along with Stetko being told she has to work under a deadline. With the harsh winter about to set in for the next six months, she either has to catch the killer now or risk him getting away.

Whiteout is based on the graphic novel by Greg Rucka and Steve Lieber, unread by me, but it's hard to imagine it being as ineffective as the filmed version. I didn't find anything in the movie worth caring about and there were some scenes, including when Stetko, Pryce and their pilot (Columbus Short) get trapped underground, that just seemed pointless because they had no consequence on the story. I felt disconnected from the characters and the material itself is uninteresting. It's as redundant and indistinguishable as an episode of CSI. If we're going to watch a murder mystery, there has to be a reason why we want the mystery to be solved. Whiteout doesn't give us a reason.

Despite the often convincing look of the film, director Dominic Sena gives it no distinct mood and I never sensed any real danger taking place. Even the ending, in which everything gets explained in one fell swoop, was lame and felt rushed. I asked myself, this was why everything happened? This was the best resolution the screenwriters could come up with? For what it's worth, I did like the movie's tagline: "See your last breath." That would have been more interesting than seeing Whiteout.