Theatrical Review: WHITEOUT
Writers: Jon Hoeber, Erich Hoeber, Chad Hayes, Carey Hayes, Greg Rucka (graphic novel)
Director: Dominic Sena
Cast: Kate Beckinsale, Gabriel Macht, Tom Skerritt, Columbus Short
Studio: Warner Bros.
WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS PLOT SPOILERS.
Based on a graphic novel of the same name, WHITEOUT tells the story of U.S. Marshal Carrie Stetko (Beckinsale), stationed on a remote research facility deep in the Antarctic, buried in isolation by mountains, snow, and ice. She lives in near solidarity, both within her surroundings and her memories. Stetko has chosen this barren tundra as a place to escape from a past mistake, that left her partner dead and her mind frozen in that moment. Her memories soon come back to haunt her as she and her only friend, Dr. John Fury (Skerritt), are called out to investigate a body that has been spotted in the ice. A researcher from the facility has been murdered with no signs of who done it. Stetko must choose whether to stay and investigate in order to potentially solve the murder, righting her wrongs of the past, or leave the mystery behind before the window of departure closes and she it stuck in this place for 6 months of winter. But as the mystery behind the murder slowly melts, Stetko, together with a U.N. operative (Gabriel Macht) investigating the case, finds that it is only the tip of the iceberg.
If this plot sounds like it may be something featured on an episode of CSI: ANTARCTICA, that's because it is. If only this film was 40 minutes versus 96! It expects us to be enthralled by this murder mystery from the very beginning, as the film opens with a machine gun fight between Russians aboard a plane. As this plane crashes, the story departs from this moment, moving instead to Beckinsale's character and her marked past, told through odd flashback sequences that are used as crutches for exposition, as flashbacks usually are. And just like the flashbacks that presents it, the subplot of Stetko's past feels forced and unnecessary, creating a mystery around why this plot line was even included, which happens to be more interesting than the film's mystery itself.
As for said mystery, it just turns out as dull white as the film's setting. Aside from an odd struggle between Beckinsale and the killer, fought in a high-speed wind snowstorm, there is little action or even mystery to keep the story moving along and you interested. Unfortunately for the film, the most uninteresting quality it carries is its resolution. Ultimately, the anti-climatic resolution is that Dr. Fury is in fact the killer, motivated by stealing rare diamonds from the plane crash so that he may get something back in a life where all he has done is give. And, as some sort of penance for her past sins, Stetko allows Fury to commit suicide by frostbite as he walks out into the storm. I'm assuming that we are supposed to accept that this has somehow transformed Stetko, like a female Johnny Utah on winter vacation away from the beach. Instead, it just comes of as forced and trite.
Skeritt's talent and status as a respected actor are wasted in this silly, two dimensional role, and subsequent lackadaisical film. Beckinsale's performance is just as cold, which is unfortunate, as her undeniable talent and appeal could have also been put to better use elsewhere.
As for the direction, Dominic Sena's flashy style, as seen with his previous films like SWORDFISH and GONE IN SIXTY SECONDS, has all but disappeared in the storm. Instead we are given a film that looks and feels as if could have been directed by just anyone. I was honestly surprised to see his name attached to the film, as I expected more out of him. I may not be a huge fan of Sena's but I do admit that he has made a few entertaining, fun films in the past - namely KALIFORNIA with Brad Pitt. Sadly, WHITEOUT is not this unique snowflake of a film Sena has been capable of making in the past.
The only thing clever about WHITEOUT is its title, which is exactly what I would use on the script and film stock to undo this mistake of a film.