THE BLACK SHEEP is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATH. We’re hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Dig in!
Directed by Dominic Sena
“WHITEOUT manages to overcome the been there, seen that vibe to create a brutal crime story with the worst case of frostbite to a beautiful person.”
After doing this column for a number of years, I think I’ve written about every worthy Christmas related horror flick, but that doesn’t mean a shortage of films covered in the white stuff (no, not coke). Of course, THE THING remains the best frigid horror tale ever created, which is probably why so many have followed its path.
In the case of 2009’s WHITEOUT, it takes several cues from the John Carpenter classic. Plot: a mysterious killer among a group of scientists. Setting: a remote station in Antarctica. Hero: a damaged soul who just wants to survive. Villain: a shape shifting alien determined to take over the planet. Ok, save for that last one, its clear WHITEOUT emulated quite a lot from THE THING. However, in place of the alien comes a killer and the mystery surrounding a decades old Russian plane that crash-landed only to be snow swallowed.
WHITEOUT revolves around Kate Beckinsale as Carrie, a U.S. Marshal stationed in Antarctica for two years and ready to retire after a bad deal with her former partner that continues to haunt her. Just like so many other crime films, days before retirement she ends up with a nasty new case that will change the course of her life. To make sure that the audience understands that time is ticking (because we need a race against a clock) she only has hours to solve the case before a massive snowstorm hits and the sun disappears for six months. They will be stuck for winter if they don’t make the last plane out. Which would suck large, hairy donkey balls.
Along with Beckinsale, WHITEOUT features a good cast including Tom Skerritt as the doctor (it’s freakin’ Dallas!), and a bunch of future TV stars like Gabriel Macht (SUITS) as Robert, Columbus Short (SCANDAL as Delfy, Shawn Doyle (BIG LOVE) as Sam and Alex O’Loughlin (HAWAII FIVE-O) as Russell. Ok, maybe that’s not a list of household names, but they all seem authentic and not just a collection of pretty faces. With that said, it’s a shame the male actors didn’t go full THE THING and grow some ragged beards. Everyone is either clean-shaven or sports stubble. Why the f*ck would you shave in Antarctica?
Like so many thrillers, WHITEOUT is only as good as its hero and villain. The latter is kept a mystery until the end of the second act, but with him covered up in snow gear and a climber’s axe, it creepily works. For the hero, Kate Beckinsale is as ridiculously hot as ever, but she really only shows that off in a completely unnecessary teased shower scene at the beginning. Besides that, she plays the role rather straight and mostly dull, leaving Carrie an uninteresting, yet thoroughly damaged, character who has nothing left but the job. She eventually teams up with Robert, who acts suspicious enough throughout that we never know if he’s a good cop with some quirks or just a bad cop with some quirks. At least he, along with pilot Delfy, brings some personality to the proceedings.
Directed by Dominic Sena (KALIFORNIA and GONE IN SIXTY SECONDS) and based on the graphic novel by Greg Rucka and Steve Lieber, nothing surprising happens in WHITEOUT, but it remains entertaining thanks to the Arctic’s brutal cold, which does come across authentically (except for a few scenes with some really terrible green screen). Extreme settings like this add an extra layer of interest that prevents another standard issue cop hunting a killer film.
Because that’s what it is. Strip away the setting and we’ve all seen this in countless direct to video features. But thanks to a good cast, a compelling mystery, and the hollowing winds of Antarctica, WHITEOUT manages to overcome the been there, seen that vibe to create a brutal crime story with the worst case of frostbite ever to happen to a beautiful person.