Whiteout (2009) Dominic Sena

Production Budget: $35 million

Worldwide Gross: $12 million

Whiteout is based on a graphic novel (which I haven’t read or even heard of) about US Marshall Carrie Stetko (Kate Beckinsale) who is working at a research station in Antartica.  There are only two days before the station closes for the winter and everyone has to go home when a dead body is discovered.  Carrie has to find out why this person was killed and who the killer is before she is stuck there for the winter.

I like you Kate Beckinsale, but you seriously need to fire your agent.  Pearl Harbor, Serendipity, The Underworld movies, Van Helsing, Vacancy, and now this?  Are you in a competition with Jessica Alba over who can churn out the most shit movies?  Well, to the movie’s credit this movie isn’t complete dogshit.  It’s crap, but it is those dry pellets you can easily clean off your carpet when you are potty training them and not some fluid diarrea.  Okay I am moving off that comparison.  The thing is this movie isn’t aggressivly bad or annoying.  It’s just there.  This was a movie where I was like, catching up on my Spanish lessons or reading about TE Lawrence and when I look up I realize I hadn’t missed anything.  There is nothing to get involved with in this thriller.

The main plot is a mess because right off the bat it has no idea where to go.  You may get the idea this is some Agatha Christie whodunnit or maybe like The Thing (fitting with the arctic theme) of having a cast of about ten people and trying to discover who is the villain.  Both you and I would be wrong in this case.  This is not some small ensemble we get to know about because this is apparenlty a huge research station housing a few hundred people.  We get to know (know being a rather loose term) about three characters and the rest of them might as well be mannequins.  Imagine the shock and horror to learn that Wally who runs the test tubes between Labs 3 and 5 is one of the people involved in the conspiracy.  OMG!  That is really the reaction we are supposed to have to such a bland revalation.

It doesn’t even seem like the movie has a clue as to where to go next in the mystery.  In most of these movies, there are clues in the crime scene which gives our protagonist a place to go next.  It is just a natural way to drive the plot.  But in Whiteout, for long stretches Carrie is just sitting around almost like she is waiting for the writers to plant the next plot point in her lap.  There were moments when I was really asking „Is anything going to happen?“ only to have the killer attempt to kill Carrie for no reason whatsoever.  And just when you think this movie can’t get any more lame, then there is the twist.  Because movies like this ALWAYS has to have one.  Trust me, if you can’t deduce from the whole whopping three characters in this movie who the bad guy is then you need to watch more movies.  The end reveal doesn’t even make a damn lick of sense because it doesn’t match at all the character they have built up the majority of the movie.  I swear it almost seems like the character is apologizing to the audience for how crappy the twist is right after it is revealed.

The movie tries to spice up the bland main plot by throwing in two bland mini mysteries.  The first has the characters questioning what is in this package that has the characters killing themselves.  I would have thought a screen writer with even half a brain would recognize it doesn’t matter what a macguffin is.  Seriously, it doesn’t matter if the package had diamonds, or a nuclear bomb, or a priceless work of art, or the world’s funniest joke.  The macguffin doesn’t matter in a movie like this, the journey is what matters.  The second mini mystery involves what happened to Carrie prior to coming to the station.  Something happened on the job which made her want to give up her career but instead chose to live in this Antartic substation.  I’m not saying a character can’t be mysterious and have things revealed later on in the movie.  But this movie has no interesting characters to start with and they do nothing to make them all that compelling.  The movie actually needed to tell us this “secret“ from her past right up front.  It tells us something important to her character.  It makes her vulnerable and therefore makes her a more compelling character.  By making that story some tight lipped secret, all you have done is keep the main character at arms length from the audience so as to not give too much away.  You make her bland for the sake of a payoff that isn’t even worth it.  That’s how ass backwards this movie is.  It tells you things to make you care about the characters at the end of the movie when you have long since stopped giving a crap.

This movie also feels poorly produced.  When we get poorly rendered CGI planes, storms, and even normal snow then you know you are in for a poor movie overall.  Kate Beckinsale is bland but, as mentioned before, that is more a problem of bad writing rather than anything else.  Tom Skeritt is a welcome addition as he is the only one allowed to have any fun on this shoot.  The rest of the cast is just as unremarkable as the rest of the movie.

Again, I didn’t HATE this movie.  But this movie was in planning hell for about eight years before production and sat on the shelf for another two.  How do you think it will turn out?  While there is nothing in this movie to hate, there is also not anything to like either.  The plot is dull, the production is piss poor, the acting is bland, the action is non-existant, and the mystery is damn near laughable.  This movie has already largely been forgotten by everyone and it should stay that way.



One Response to “Whiteout (2009) Dominic Sena”

  1. Both volumes of the comic by Greg Rucka are pretty good. The murder mystery and the danger of the enviroment are much stronger, as are the various characters. The movie was pretty forgettable though…

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