Immediately, the premise of Whiteout, the 2009 thriller based upon Greg Rucka’s graphic novel of the same name, is both intriguing and exciting; a U.S. Marshal hiding from her personal demons in the most isolated place on Earth, Antarctica, stumbles upon a dead body out in the middle of the frozen wilderness, becoming embroiled in the first homicide investigation in the history of the continent. While the promise of the concept is in many ways delivered upon, the resulting film leaves some things to be desired. Read the rest of my review of the Kate Beckinsale vehicle after the jump.
This alluring concept is supported well in the first act and a half of the film, in which Christopher Soos’ cinematography and Graham Walker’s production design both superbly capture the feeling of intense solitude that the setting implies. Whiteout also manages to succeed where many other films with arctic settings fail (the big exception being John Carpenter’s The Thing) in that the audience can truly feel the bitter cold and experience the loneliness that the characters are immersed in. It’s visceral, and props should go to both director Dominic Sena and the cast for selling it so well.
The cast does an excellent job all around, with Gabriel “The Spirit” Macht bringing credibility and leading man charm to his role as Agent Robert Pryce. The big standouts in the film, though, are Kate Beckinsale as U.S. Marshal Carrie Stetko and Tom Skerritt as the base’s medic, Dr. John “Doc” Fury. Beckinsale portrays Stetko as a strong character who’s been broken and is trying to mend both herself and her faith in people. The fact that Beckinsale manages to bring some pathos to such a cliché of a role says a lot. She also manages to effectively mask her English accent with an amount of success that few of even the best British thesps are able to accomplish. Enough good things can’t be said about Tom Skerritt in the film. The character is a cardboard cutout and his dialogue is the worst in the movie, but Skerritt plays it so over the top and appears to be having so much fun that he makes it work for him.
Sadly, these are the only aspects worth celebrating in Whiteout. The story starts to fall apart midway through Act II, really letting down the simple and effective premise with an unconvincing conspiracy plot and a twist ending that’s only surprising if you’ve never seen a movie before. These plot pitfalls ultimately lead the film down a disappointing road from which it never recovers, and leaves the audience wishing the creepiness of the opening minutes of the film had been fully delivered upon.
The Blu-ray transfer is well done, allowing the stark contrast of the setting to become surreal and overpowering in its beauty. The sound design is also quite good as the howling Antarctic winds envelope the viewer in the eerie exterior scenes. The special features are sparse, with only two short documentaries offered up a few deleted scenes.
Ultimately, the performances and filmmaking on display make Whiteout worth a watch on Blu-ray, but not more than once.