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Non-Review Review: Whiteout

Whiteout is a “just okay” thriller, perfectly average in most areas (but hopelessly deficient in others). Setting a murder-mystery-thriller in the cold icy tundra and in the middle of a storm immediately brings to mind any number of cinematic fore-bearers, virtually all of which are superior to this little film. Perhaps the greatest crime that Whiteout is guilty of, aside from following the usual tropes and conventions too slavishly, is that it just doesn’t do anything with its setting, which seems to want to be distinctive.

Snow wear to go...

A whiteout, in case you were wondering, is a giant snowstorm. As we open, one of those bad boys is zoning in on the small Antartic Base where the bulk of the story takes place. An evacuation is ordered – all base personal must be evacuated for the own safety. At the same time, a body is found on the ice, seemingly stabbed with a pick-axe. There’s a murderer about, and they’ll be off the base and scot free within a few hours, unless our dedicated Federal Marshall can find them. Sounds tense, doesn’t it? Like a race against time to find the killer before he (or she – let’s not be sexist) disappears back to the world?

Of course, it’s not really. And I don’t know why. Maybe because the movie doesn’t focus on the ticking plot or the fact that the movie spends relatively little time at the base with the evacuation. Or maybe it’s the fact that it’s not so much an investigation (where any number of factors may or may not important down the line), but a ridiculously linear plot which can’t lead anywhere but towards the killer. And it’s not a particularly interesting linear plot. That and the fact that there are no hitns that allow the audience to join in with the hunt – though genre savvy viewers will spot the mastermind before the end of the first reel. Not because the movie provides them with hints they can use to deduce the identity, but because we know how this will play out in a ridiculously straightforward and uncreative thriller.

There are some interesting notions along the way. The movie tries (but doesn’t quite succeed) to hammer home the dangers unique to a subzero environment, with frostbite and such. There’s also an interesting exploration of how they get about – tethering themselves to ropes to navigate from building to building – but it just becomes clunky in the chase scenes. Don’t get me wrong, there has to be a way to make these chase sequences visually exciting and engaging, but it isn’t the approach used here. Still, for the most part the thriller, trite and cliché as it might be (the lead character even has to overcome her trust issues – awww!), is comfortable in its predictability. It doesn’t excel by any stretch of the imagination, but its reliance on tried and true tropes of the genre keep it from being found face-down in the snow.

However, the acting is pretty crap, across the board. Kate Beckinsale has yet to wow me in any film, and – while she isn’t the worst actor here by the stretch of the imagination – she isn’t exceptional here by any means. There’s no chemistry between the cast and none of the characters really exist as more than a series of plot functions (there’s the red herring, the mentor, the commanding officer), but I’m not sure whether it’s fair to blame the writers or the actors for this. On the flip side, it’s nice to see Tom Skerrit. It’s always nice to see Tom Skerrit, though, judging from the quality of anything he’s made recently, that’s just nostalgia talking. Probably.

Whiteout is disappointing. It isn’t anything I’d classify as a good film, but it isn’t a terrible film either. It would have to try in order to fail. Instead, it’s just a very lazy, unambitious little thriller that takes a relatively original conceit and then does nothing with it. For shame.

4 Responses

  1. Only reason to see this:

    Kate Beckinsale

    The End

  2. Whiteout is a colorless wasteland. There’s only one thing that could have helped cover this film up: A flashback that changed the script’s name to Wite-Out. Nice info, check out my review when you can!

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