Whiteout is a 2009 thriller film directed by Dominic Sena. It is based on the similarly titled Whiteout comic book series. Taking place in the coldest and most isolated place on earth, it stars Kate Beckinsale as United States Marshall Carrie Stetko. She is hoping to leave Antarctica for good, and is required to be on the plane before 72 hours pass, or she will be stuck down there for another six months. That premise in itself isn’t exactly endearing for a feature length film, so before long a dead body is dropped into the scene. Shortly after, Carrie determines that the body was murdered, and must hunt down the killer before time runs out.
The film opens with a Russian plane falling out of the sky due to the two pilots deciding to kill the rest of the crew. A stray bullet hits the pilot and takes the entire plane down with him. The plane gets lost in the snow and ice. Fast forward 50 years to a present day research facility, where a creepily upbeat Carrie comes inside and takes a nice, hot shower. Completely milking the sex appeal for all it’s worth? It absolutely is. Seconds pass before someone comes knocking at her door, cutting this scene short. Why did he come to the door? I actually cannot remember. The entire first part of the film is uninteresting, despite keeping a somewhat humorous tone. That tone is cut off later on, when a body is found, kicking off a murder mystery that ends up, for the most part, being a bore to watch.
One of the main problems with the film is that it takes a long time for anything of interest to happen. The pacing is ever-changing, never figuring out what works best. Slow, dramatic building up of a scene, or fast, action packed sequences? A bit of both don’t hurt, but when parts of those are missing, it means that they didn’t really have a purpose in the first place. There is a lot of Carrie wandering around buildings, and a lot of the time, nothing comes of it. Then, a fast paced action scene will occur, and we’ll remember that there is an actual threat on the loose. And that threat doesn’t really end up being the main plot device of the film. On board that Russian plane, was a crate containing something. The killer has taken that something, and has stowed it away somewhere. Even after there is conclusion to the killer storyline, the film drags on for another 25 or so minutes so that we can be told what was in the crate and who really wanted it. At that point in the film, nobody really even cares.
The action sequences in Whiteout end up being very hard to follow. This is, after all, the South Pole. There is snow blowing all throughout the movie and in the scenes where you need to be able to follow what is happening on screen, you can’t. The two main action scenes of the film become incomprehensible messes. They are also very similar in nature, with characters being limited to strapping themselves to a rope in order to avoid being blown away from shelter due to the wind. It does feature a couple other tense moments, and these are not complimented by action scenes. That is not an issue in these cases, and there really isn’t any issue with them at all. The scenes where true fear for the characters happens are actually quite well done, and the story itself isn’t all that bad.
Despite the characters not being all that developed, Kate Beckinsale does a wonderful job as a United States Marshall, while Tom Skerritt does an admirable job as the research facility’s doctor. The acting on the whole is pretty well done, and actually does make the film seem somewhat plausible. Kate’s character gets some real depth and the reason she is down in Antarctica in the first place is explained in far more depth than anyone really needs. The other actors do solid, but not exactly memorable jobs, as their characters are mostly there just to be played off of by Kate and Tom.
Whiteout is in no means a terrible or even bad film. It does suffer from a few issues that distance it from the viewer, but never enough that should make you want to turn it off. It has a few scenes that are really fun to watch, although those are counteracted by the scenes of indistinguishable action. The acting is on the whole quite good, with standout performances by Kate Beckinsale and Tom Skerritt. The film just never quite allows itself to become very good. If it had better pacing and more intense and noticeable action sequences, it could be a great film. As it is, it’s a solid movie that’s saving grace may be the fact that it takes place in Antarctica. That allows it to feel fresher than it is, because the majority of the audience will not have ventured out into as frigid temperatures as shown on screen. The frozen air ends up being the most dangerous threat in the film, and despite making it hard to see what is going on while characters are outside, allow the film to be new enough to warrant a watch.