An adaptation of the graphic novel by Greg Rucka and Steve Leiber, directed by Dominic Sena - the guy who brought us the GONE IN 60 SECONDS remake and SWORDFISH.
Following an action-packed prologue set on board an Antarctica-bound aeroplane in 1957, we get past the opening credits and to the highlight of the film: Kate Beckinsale's arse.
Carrie (Beckinsale) strips off and gets herself into a conveniently steamy shower, preparing herself for another day in her role as the only US Marshal assigned to Antarctica. Her morning routine is cut short by the arrival of her colleague, Dr Fury (Tom Skerritt).
Fury takes Carrie out into the snow to investigate a body. They discover it to belong to Weiss, a member of a geological research team working on something secret in the remotest part of Antarctica. Weiss' head is half-missing, leading Carrie to deduce that a murder has been committed.
But who would kill a harmless scientist who keeps a photograph of his wife and child at his camp to keep him warm? And, why? Unfortunately for Carrie, she only has three days to find the killer before winter sets in and Antarctica becomes engulfed in an impenetrable 'whiteout' (constant darkness and snowstorms) for six months.
And so, with the help of Fury, the dependable pilot Delfy (Columbus Short) and smarmy Sam (Shawn Doyle), Carrie sets about hunting the perpetrator down. But the killer has the same idea, and sets their sights on Carrie ...
Throw in a dubious UN representative who Carrie reluctantly agrees to work alongside, in the form of Pryce (Gabriel Macht), and some irritating flashbacks to a traumatic incident from years before that inevitably tie Carrie in with the current events, and the checklist of clichés is just about complete.
Strong, sexy female lead a'la RESIDENT EVIL and TOMB RAIDER? Check. Smarmy suspects? Check? Government officials to be wary of? Check. The earnest black assistant? Check. A whiskey-swigging, British scientist who likes to party as well as solve crucial conundrums (Alex O'Loughlin)? Check.
None of which helps the strictly by-the-numbers plot or corny dialogue from co-screenwriters Jon and Erich Hoeber. At times it's laughable hokum that borders on being enjoyable; at others, it's simply predictable and staid.
Some of the exterior cinematography is stunning, and is the second highlight of the film (after the arse). But with such a gorgeous location to work with, there would be something wrong if Sena's film wasn't at least visually attractive.
A good cast seem to sleepwalk through this overlong thriller though, giving forgettable performances that allow any early hints of suspense to rapidly melt away.
Having not read the graphic novel upon which this is based, I can't say whether Sena and crew have botched the screen adaptation of whether that was crap too. But this film, despite decent production values and some occasionally grisly 'aftermath' FX, is poor.
The action scenes don't excite, the scarier parts aren't frightening, and Beckinsale doesn't light up the screen in her lead role. Skerritt is his usual reliable self, but even he looks bored halfway through - and seems to be transforming into Kris Kristofferson in his old age (I was surprised by how old he looked here).
The film is presented in a very sharp, fine anamorphic 2.35:1 transfer. Clean, clear and bright, there's nothing to quibble about regarding this excellent presentation.
English audio is provided in an efficient 2.0 mix and an impressively boisterous 5.1 mix, which really attempts to kick some life into the action sequences with canny use of all channels.
Optional subtitles are available in English for the Hard of hearing.
An animated main menu page leads into an animated scene-selection menu allowing access to WHITEOUT via 12 chapters.
Bonus features begin with a decent 11-minute featurette entitled "Whiteout - The Coldest Thriller Ever". Beckinsale and crew are on location to report on making the film in freezing conditions. The behind-the-scenes footage is interesting, but this is too short to be truly revealing.
"Whiteout - From Page To Screen" is another 11-minute featurette, this time focusing on the transition from cult comic book to pedestrian film. Sena talks enthusiastically about the project, while comic creator Steve Leiber (or was it Greg Rucka?) pretends to be delighted with the results. There are some interesting page/screen comparisons.
4 minutes of deleted scenes follow, in widescreen.
Finally, there's the breathless original trailer, which clocks in at 2 minutes in length.
Emerging as a strange hybrid of CLIFFHANGER and THE THING, WHITEOUT is a thriller that is technically adept but fails to register simply because it lacks the action impact of the Stallone vehicle and the claustrophobic atmosphere of Carpenter's classic.
A good presentation in the picture and sound departments help WHITEOUT out somewhat, but ultimately it's a forgettable film that understandably bypassed cinemas.
Review by Stu Willis
|Released by Optimum Home Entertainment|
|Region 2 - PAL|
|see main review|