By Joe Lozito
Everything's gonna be all White
"Whiteout", perhaps sadly, is not an accounting of the origins of the popular correctional fluid. Instead, the title refers to what the script calls an "unholy combination of climatic events" that results in a person not being able to see more than six inches in the distance. Something like this doesn't tend to happen in your average city. It takes a certain locale. One such location is Antarctica which, as a title card helpfully reminds us, is "the coldest, most isolated land mass on Earth". Brrr.
"Whiteout" is a very standard thriller, complete with scares, red herrings and a nonsensical twist-ending. It begins some fifty years ago with an improbable (and ill-advised) shoot-out aboard a Russian cargo plane. The aircraft crash-lands, as well it should, in the frozen wastes of the Antarctic continent. Fifty years later, at the U.S. research station Amundsen-Scott (which appears to have been populated with extras from The CW), U.S. Marshal Carrie Stetko (Kate Beckinsale, about as convincing a Marshal as Jennifer Lopez was in "Out of Sight") is informed of a dead body out in the ice. The corpse (called a "popsicle") is not in great shape; its limbs are twisted, it has a freshly-stitched wound, and half its face is frozen off. And that's all before Carrie – who has a gift for sleuthiness - gets a closer look. It soon becomes clear, through a series of over-used flashbacks, that this popsicle has dredged up some unresolved issues in our stalwart heroine. Add into the mix an approaching storm - and the fact that Carrie was three days from turning in her badge - and you have all the makings of a run-of-the-mill thriller.
And that's exactly what "Whiteout" is. Sticking closely to its genre trappings, "Whiteout" is a "locked-door" mystery. In this case, instead of a literal "door", the film uses the deadly environment as its enclosure. Director Dominic Sena ("Swordfish") does an effective job establishing the unforgiving surroundings (spilled coffee freezes instantly, etc). But much like an inhabitant in this frozen wasteland, the script, based on the graphic novel by Greg Rucka, never strays far from the expected path.
The cast isn't given much to do except spout corkers like, "nature never intended you to survive here". Ms. Beckinsale (who, after "Snow Angels
", appears to be developing something of a cold-weather fixation) gives her all to the role, including an egregious shower scene that makes Ripley's spacesuit dressing sequence from "Alien" seem quaint. Meanwhile, Tom Skerritt (as the local "Doc") continues to take his place as the Kris Kristofferson of this generation.
Who's the killer? You'll probably guess early on. Why'd he (or she) do it? Well, none of it really matters. The script so stretches to fit into its environment that close inspection of the plot reveals more holes than an overused snow boot. In the end, none of it makes any sense and the motives are paper-thin, at best. What you end up with is a cold weather thriller that delivers more chills than thrills and may end up leaving you feeling a bit (ahem) cold.