September 11, 2009 in Features

Review: ‘Whiteout’ more confusing than chilling

Robert W. Butler Kansas City Star
 
Warner Bros. photo

Alex O’Loughlin, left, and Kate Beckinsale star in the murder mystery “Whiteout.” Warner Bros.
(Full-size photo)

Early in “Whiteout,” a murder mystery set in a South Pole research station, a federal marshal played by Kate Beckinsale strips down and takes a shower.

Why? No particular reason. But enjoy it while you can, fellas. She’ll spend the rest of the film in a parka.

That scene makes about as much sense as anything else in Dominic Sena’s thriller.

Beckinsale plays Carrie Stetko, who requested this remote, easy assignment after a particularly ugly on-the-job incident. Her main duties involve riding herd on several dozen young scientists who behave like college freshmen during orientation week.

But after two years Carrie is ready to rejoin the real world. That is until a pilot reports seeing a corpse out on the ice.

The dead man, a geologist, has been murdered. The trail of clues leads Carrie to an abandoned Russian outpost – now occupied by a masked killer with an ice ax – and a Soviet transport plane that has been buried in the ice for 50 years (we saw it go down in the film’s prologue).

Something important was aboard that plane. Something worth killing for.

Based on Greg Rucka’s comic-book series, “Whiteout” is one of those mysteries in which every character is a potential murderer. They include a pilot (Columbus Short); an FBI agent (Gabriel Macht) who mysteriously pops up on the scene; the station’s venerable old sawbones (Tom Skerritt); and a cocky Aussie researcher (Alex O’Loughlin) whom we first see running a naked race in 57-below temperatures.

Oh, did I mention that the Antarctic winter is blowing in and that once trapped, Carrie and the few remaining inhabitants will be stuck there for six months?

The screenplay by Jon and Erich Hoeber and Chad and Carey Hayes (too many cooks?) is confusing and leaps huge gaps in logic.

But an unsung crew of f/x guys does a heck of a job re-creating a screaming Antarctic blizzard. This is one bone-chilling movie. It got that right, at least.


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