Sunday, February 28, 2010

Whiteout (2009) - Too Bland for My Tastes

On the Menu: WHITEOUT (2009); Blockbuster Rental DVD

Ingredients: Kate Beckinsale, Tom Skerritt, Gabriel Macht, Columbus Short and Alex O'Loughlin. Directed by Dominic Sena. Run time: 96 minutes. Rated: R.

At First Bite: The trailer was promising. It sets up a mystery/thriller involving a buried plane in Antarctica. And, they even show part of a Beckinsale shower scene in the trailer. All right. Got my attention.

The movie begins by showing us the fateful 1957 flight of the plane in the trailer. Then, we're introduced to our chilly setting via a caption that reads:
ANTARCTICA
THE COLDEST,
MOST ISOLATED LAND MASS
ON THE PLANET
I assume we should just hazard a guess that it's present day. The next set of captions let us know the name of the base, the latitude and longitude and the temperature -- a balmy (-55) degrees Celsius, which converts to (-67) degrees Fahrenheit. But, oddly, that doesn't stop guys from hopping off planes nude and streaking across the base. There's a minute-long tracking shot following our heroine, U.S. Marshal Carrie Stetko, from a short trek outside to her shower (that might be the best camerawork in the movie).

The vast majority of the base is evacuating for the winter, including Carrie. She's planning on resigning from her post with dreams of becoming a professional backgammon player back in the States. But, hold the phone, a body has been found. It's Antarctica's first murder, which means Carrie has to stay put and investigate.

A couple more bodies turn up and a mysterious cargo is missing from the buried plane. How is it all connected? 

Tough to Swallow: The dialogue leaves much to be desired. It's actually funny sometimes because most of the time the characters are just stating the obvious as though the filmmakers thought the audience would be either stupid or wouldn't see what was on the screen. "It's a body. It looks like he's been shot through the head." Really? Wouldn't have guessed from the bullet wound or since we saw him die in the opening sequence of the movie. I mean, why even start the movie off with the 1957 flight if you're going to recreate the entire crash later when the plane is found?

The movie is full of flashbacks. Five of them are of the same scene, which proves to be the exposition for Carrie and her trust issues. Then, of course, are the pointless mini-flashes of the '57 crash as well as its recent discovery.

The movie's twist is foreshadowed by, to be honest, a mere glance, plus the Law of Economy of Characters (see Ebert's definition).

Doc (Skerritt) informs us early on that a whiteout is a ridiculously dangerous weather condition where you can't see 6 inches in front of your face. Yet, the final chase/fight scene takes place during the whiteout and somehow they can see each other just fine (even when they're all wearing giant parkas and goggles). Plus, as long as someone is attached to a safety line the wind doesn't really affect them. And, can three people really survive 7 minutes of (-70+) degrees without wearing some type of mask? You'd think frostbite would set in pretty quick under those circumstances.

Oh, and Carrie is a U.S. Marshal and carries a gun, but I don't think she ever used it once. That's kinda weird when there's a killer chasing her around the base for most of the movie.

Dark Castle Entertainment put its name on this, but its filmography consists mostly of horror films (HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL, GHOST SHIP, ORPHAN, etc.). WHITEOUT is no horror film.

How's about the nitpicky stuff, huh? Well, a thesis paper has the word doctoral misspelled as "doctorial." The label on Doc's Scotch Whisky bottle reads Scotch Whiskey. And, when Carrie and her crew go looking for grid 104 (where the plane is buried), the GPS coordinates, if researched with Google Earth (or what have you), show them to be on Lake Manitoba in Canada.

Something to Chew On: Reese Witherspoon was attached to the movie way back in 2002.

The film currently has a 5.3 user rating on IMDb.com (6,511 votes).

Sides: This Blockbuster Rental DVD has zero features. The only two options on the menu are "Play Movie" and "Languages."

Aftertaste: WHITEOUT was pretty disappointing. It's too predictable and the payoff was really lame considering the Cold War implications in the movie's opening sequence. I know the dialogue is bad (they should have used Wite-Out on most of the script), but I'm beginning to question whether Gabriel Macht should look for a new profession. Kate Beckinsale, on the other hand, is worth watching in almost anything. And, guys, you'll at least be happy with the opening sequence at the base. It's really the best part of the movie. After that comes the gratuitous flashbacks and surprising lack of frostbite. I think the filmmakers tried to sell it as a slasher film, but it didn't quite live up to that billing. The premise of the first homicide in Antarctica is murdered by the actual plot. The initial run-in with the killer is a little intense, but, overall, the movie is overwhelmingly blah.

Rating:

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