Whiteout (2009)
Whiteout (2009)

Genre: Thriller Running Time: 1 hr. 41 min.

Release Date: September 11th, 2009 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Dominic Sena Actors: Kate Beckinsale, Gabriel Macht, Tom Skerritt, Columbus Short, Alex O’Loughlin




hile many have found graphic novels to be an excellent template for film adaptations, not all of them translate well to the big screen. Such is the case with “Whiteout,” which suffers in everything from the major (lackluster characters, crippling flashback quantities) to the minor (shoddy special effects, blatant continuity errors). As Kate Beckinsale trades fangs and skintight leather for parkas, she also leaves the entertainment value out in the cold. At least, the suspense is handled with some care, though the harsh weather is far scarier than the ice-pick-wielding villain.

A troubled past finds U.S. Marshal Carrie Stetko (Kate Beckinsale) stationed at a remote scientific research facility in Antarctica. With only three days left before the base is plunged into a six month-long darkness, Stetko is called upon to investigate a mysterious sighting. Uncovering the mutilated body of a scientist, she must race against time to solve the murder before she’s trapped with a killer in the coldest, most isolated place in the world.

The flashback doesn’t have to be a painful storytelling technique, but “Whiteout” manages to horrifically abuse the tool. In poorly derived moments, the film flashes back to the opening scene, to hazy, orange-colored character-establishing memories and, in perhaps the most idiotic moment, to less than one minute ago. It’s nothing short of staggeringly insulting to the audience. Carrie’s history has almost no affect on her ability to catch the killer and is so simple that it could have been summed up in a routine conversation. Early on, the film even misuses fading to black, repeatedly creating a disorienting sense of missing footage.

Movies like “30 Days of Night” or “The Thing” have already, more impressively, utilized an abnormally cold setting to toy with the viewer’s fears of extreme isolation, distrust, and paranoia. In “Whiteout,” claustrophobia, asphyxiation, and being buried alive are also introduced, along with the common, location-specific “freezing to death.” What isn’t so notable is the whiteout of the title, a snowstorm with 100 mph winds that prevent visibility beyond six inches. During the brief scenes dealing with the storm, the lack of sight is frequently anticlimactic, particularly when the blurry, fighting figures are nearly indistinguishable.

Director Dominic Sena (“Gone in 60 Seconds,” “Swordfish”) must have been exceptionally proud of the special makeup effects department, donating generous amounts of screentime to disturbing shots of badly mutilated cadavers. To make up for the grisly images is an immoderately gratuitous shower scene with Beckinsale, which somehow produces no inappropriate nudity. Apparently, the clarity inside a bathroom is as hindered as outside in the blizzard.

– The Massie Twins

  • 4/10