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Old 09-20-2009, 12:26 PM
Dominic Sena's Whiteout

Whiteout (2009)

Here's another film that is very misleading in its marketing. Like the previews for "Extract" presenting itself as a comedy, "Whiteout," too, fools the audience into thinking that it's a genre it's not. The trailers make one think it's going to be a thriller set in the wilderness of Antarctica. Well, at least the part about Antarctica is correct.

The film begins back in the 50s when a Russian plane carrying mysterious cargo crashes somewhere in Antarctica. Jumping to present day, we are introduced to our main characters, who are getting ready to leave for the winter, because that's when the weather gets really nasty. There's Carrie Stetko (Kate Beckinsale), a U.S. Marshall, Dr. John Fury (Tom Skerritt), and a pilot, Delfy (Columbus Short).

Just two days before the final plane leaves, a body is discovered out in no man's land. Carrie quickly figures that it was a murder based on the lack of equipment around the body and the fact that it was in the middle of nowhere. The murderer is still on the loose, and even comes after Carrie early on. With the help of an F.B.I. agent, Robert Pryce (Gabriel Macht), she must help find the murderer and, after finding the crashed Russian plane, figure out what mysterious cargo was taken from it, cargo that someone finds worth killing for.

For a film that's billed as a action-thriller, there's barely any to be had throughout its entire 94-minute runtime. I mentioned in the synopsis that the murderer does come after Carrie early on. This is the only bit of "thrill" that I can recall throughout the whole movie. Later on, when it tries again, the scenes are too incomprehensible to have any effect whatsoever.

These later scenes take place outside in the terrible storm that has caused everyone else to evacuate and basically consist of the characters running around (or trying to) as they are attached to wires to safely guide them from one building to another. This is where the title "Whiteout" actually comes back to hurt this entire sequence.

In these scenes, it is nearly impossible to tell who is who, or who is doing what. We watch as several characters go from wire to wire, trying to stop the murderer, but we could care less because they are almost completely whited out, losing any thrills that the filmmakers were trying to create with these scenes.

The film's structure also had some pretty big problems. First off, the murderer is revealed far too early in the film, killing the mystery portion of it right away. The killer is someone we had never met before, so again, we don't really care. It was kind of like the recent "Sorority Row," but at least there we had met the character, we just didn't know them very well.

The film tries to give us some backstory as to why Carrie chose to come to Antarctica. We are shown some flashbacks regarding her old partner who betrayed her, and led to believe that her inability to notice his betrayal earlier led her to choose Antarctica as her post. To say that this is a lame excuse for her being there is not nearly enough, but it will have to do.

This all leads up to a very anticlimactic ending where we discover, as if we hadn't figured it out already, that there was somebody else involved. Carrie had already failed to notice that someone betrayed her once, perhaps this shows that she doesn't really have what it takes to be a U.S. Marshall....anywhere.

With this anticlimactic ending, it would have been preferable if they had pinned everything on the murderer instead of dragging another character into the mix, but then they would have had to find a way to push back the revelation of the murderer until later in the film. With the lack of thrills up to that point, this could have only led to more disaster. Here's where the title could have come in proper use. Take the screenplay, dip it in a vat of whiteout, and forget about it. 2/4 stars.
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