I’ve talked to several people who have tried convincing me that the graphic novel on which Whiteout is based is really good. Having seen the film without reading the source material, I can only assume that either those people are wrong, or the filmmakers completely botched their adaptation. While there is nothing overtly awful about the film, there is very little worthy of praise.
Kate Beckinsale plays Carrie Stetko, a U.S Marshal based in an Antarctic research station. The location is by far the most interesting aspect of the film. Much less interesting is the murder mystery Stetko gets involved in. What starts out as a potentially intriguing mystery (how DID that body end up abandoned in the middle of nowhere?) quickly escalates into a standard variation on the masked killer chasing people around an isolated setting.
Unfortunately, much of these sequences take place outside and in heavy snow conditions. While director Dominic Sena (Swordfish) does the best he can to keep things interesting, there is no masking the lack of visual variety. Not only is everybody bundled up, making it difficult to make out which character is which, all the locations look exactly the same. There are only so many ways you can shoot endless expanses of white.
In order to keep things interesting, Sena attempts to shoot in different styles and speeds. None of it is ever compelling. When the action moves indoors, things don’t get much better. He shoots the research station as an endless expanse of hallways and bedrooms without conveying any visual excitement. While most of the directing falls flat, it especially falls flat in several of Stetko’s flashback sequences.
Without giving anything away, she had an incident happen to her many years ago that (what a shock) is comparable to the current story. As the film progresses, the viewer is treated to the same incident over and over again, but with slight additions each time. For some reason, Sena decides to make us rewatch what we’ve already seen over and over again in order to get to the new stuff. When all is said and done, the flashback is a pretty short sequence that has been dragged out over the entire film and does nothing to enhance the story.
The characters are generic and the story uninvolving. Action sequences are poorly staged, the film is dull visually, and the resolution didn’t provoke a reaction out of me one way or another. By the end of the film, I had just stopped caring. One of the very few extras on the Blu-Ray is called “Whiteout: From Page to Screen.” This is a 12-minute feature where the film is discussed in terms of the graphic novel. The writer, Greg Rucka, and artist Steve Lieber seem genuinely impressed with the film as an adaptation of their work. It must be a thrill to see your illustrations brought to life. I get that. But if their work is as good as I’ve heard, I just don’t understand how they could have been happy with the way their story is depicted.
Beyond four minutes of pointless deleted scenes, the only other feature is called “The Coldest Thriller Ever.” Also running about 12 minutes, it’s exactly what you’d expect. The Canadian location where they shot the film represents Antarctica very well. And it was supposedly very cold. That is pretty much the extent of that documentary.
Sometimes the most frustrating movies are the most generic and forgettable ones. There are times when I’d rather watch a bad movie than a movie that I don’t care about one way or the other. This movie sat on the shelf for a really long time, and it’s pretty obvious why. There is no reason for it to exist. My friends have tried convincing me to read the graphic novel, but after watching this film, I have no desire to visit these characters or this world ever again.