For what it’s worth, Dominic Sena’s Whiteout gets points for originality. It’s not every day you get a murder mystery set in Antarctica. I’m sure Colombo never ventured that far south. But a clever premise will only get you so far, especially when that’s the only thing you’ve got going.
Based on Greg Rucka’s now 11-year-old comic book of the same name, the film follows Carrie Stetko (Kate Beckinsale), a U.S. marshal who has spent the past few years cleaning up misdemeanors between scientists in Antarctica. You see, Carrie’s a cop with a past (as we’re told ad naseum through flashbacks), but her tour of duty is almost over and she’ll soon be headed home. Of course, as luck or fate or clever screenwriting would have it, the body of a murdered geologist shows up, and it’s up to Carrie and a U.N. operative (Gabriel Macht, The Spirit) to unravel the mystery.
As a mystery—which revolves around a crashed Russian airplane from the ‘50s and its cargo—the movie bounces between contrived and transparent. Conclusions from clues are drawn willy-nilly, and the baddie behind it all—despite the requisite red herrings—is so obvious he should really just have a mustache to twist throughout the entire film. As a whole, none of it really adds up under close examination.
There are some attempts at goosing the action quotient with a masked killer armed with a pickax, but this turns into nothing more than what you’d find in your usual slasher flick. You’ll also find some attempted gross-out moments involving the occasional dead body or some frostbite. The film’s location helps nothing, since the snow and the fact that everyone is bundled up in parkas—aided none by Sena’s inability to shoot a coherent action sequence—makes the action hard to follow. But don’t let the cast’s winter wear get you worried, the movie still has enough sense to get Beckinsale down to her skivvies for a very lingering shower scene, complete with tastefully placed steam. All of it falls under the category of second-rate titillation.
The cast is good, but they’re never given much to do. This is a movie where the idea of heart wrenching is a teary-eyed finger amputation scene. Silly? Yes. Entertaining? Not very. Yet another reminder of the ugly shape of the modern mystery film? Most definitely. Rated R for violence, grisly images, brief strong language and some nudity.