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Friday, September 11, 2009

Whiteout (Warner Bros.)



By Harry Forbes

Antarctica, “the coldest most isolated land mass on the planet,” as we are forewarned at the film’s start, provides the desolate setting for this dull by-the-numbers thriller. It concerns a U.S. marshal (that’s Kate Beckinsale) stationed at a U.S. research station there, who investigates the murder (the continent’s first!) of a geologist whose frozen corpse is spotted lying in the middle of nowhere.

She and John Fury (Tom Skerritt), the base’s kindly doctor and Carrie’s principal confidant, were about to take leave of the base for the winter, but now, of course, they must remain. It is Fury, incidentally, who gets to describe for us the horrors of being caught in a blinding whiteout of snow and wind.

The geologist had been part of a team looking for the contents of a Russian cargo plane, downed half a century earlier. They had found, as we come to learn, something of interest in the plane’s storage box.

After she and her pilot Delfy (Columbus Short) go to an abandoned Russian base where the victim was stationed and discover another fatality, Carrie is nearly killed by a mystery assailant, his identity hidden by protective gear, There, they also encounter an enigmatic U.N. representative Robert Pryce (Gabriel Macht) who becomes Carrie’s unwanted partner, and potential love interest.

The uninspired screenplay by Jon Hoeber & Erich Hoeber and Chad Hayes & Carey W. Hayes, was based on the 1998 graphic novel by Greg Rucka and Steve Lieber.

This is the sort of movie where every single character seems suspect. A repeated sepia-toned violent flashback of Carrie in her former career will eventually explain why she accepted this desolate assignment, but there is little otherwise in the way of character development. You barely care what happens to any of them, and the ultimate revelation of the killer’s identity is pretty predictable. (You may, however, crave a hot chocolate after two hours of raging snow, powerful winds, and chattering teeth.)

The arctic setting (actually, Manitoba, Canada) is convincing enough, and provides the film with its sole point of mild interest, though it’s sometimes difficult to tell who’s who in the all the snow and South Pole darkness.

Director Dominic Sera’s direction is strictly standard for this B-level material. There are quite a few gruesome shots of frozen corpses and such, and – spoiler alert – Carrie loses a couple of her fingers to the cold, the (mostly below frame level) amputation getting more of a rise out of the boisterous preview audience than any of the other sluggish proceedings on screen.

(This film has been rated R by the MPAA for violence, grisly images, brief strong language and some nudity.) Print this post

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