U.S. Marshal Carrie Stetko (Kate Beckinsale) is the only law enforcement in Antarctica, sent to investigate a body on the ice— the continent's first homicide. A shocking discovery in itself, it will plunge her into an even more bizarre mystery and the revelation of secrets long-buried under the endless ice... secrets that someone believes are still worth killing for.
As Stetko races to find the killer before he finds her, winter is already closing in. In the deadly Antarctic whiteout, she won't see him till he's a breath away.
Based on the graphic novel by Greg Rucka and Steve Lieber.
Fifteen minutes into watching 'Whiteout,' I realized I was unprepared for the viewing. The harsh white snowy climate on screen, coupled with the icy winds blowing through the speakers, sent a chill down my spine (more so than the fact that, being January, it was actually a tad cold). That motivated me to put the film on pause and make a nice steaming bowl of chili. I'm glad I did, as for the remaining hour plus of the film, I had a unique sense of satisfaction, and a fond memory that I'll remember forever. No, the memory wasn't caused by 'Whiteout,' but by that sweet, sweet spicy chili.
Why am I sharing my manly dining habits with you fair readers? To be frank, I got more enjoyment out of my culinary creation than the film I was to view, and the more I talk about the chili, the less I have to discuss 'Whiteout.'
Adapted from the Eisner Award nominated Oni Press comic series of the same name, 'Whiteout' tells the tale of the first recorded murder in Antarctica, the mystery surrounding it, and the efforts to find the culprits and motivation. US Marshal Carrie Stetko (Kate Beckinsale, the 'Underworld Trilogy') was about to hang up her gun, with the station closing down in just three days, as six months of storms are incoming. The discovery of a body with wounds telling of a non-accidental death may jeopardize her plans. A killer is amongst the scientists, and with a fast approaching deadline, not to mention another butchered body, Stetko must solve the mystery, if, that is, she can survive the killer climate and the killer himself.
Ever since reading Rotten Tomatoes' list of the worst reviewed films of the decade, with 'Whiteout' taking the 100th spot in the bottom 100 (with a rotten 7 percent positive review score from the top critics), I wanted to see the film to see if it was really all that bad. Considering what little I knew going into it, I was hoping for a sense of trapped despair against more devious odds(a la 'The Thing'), or a tense nail-biter that can take a drastic, deadly turn in the same vein as '30 Days of Night.' I got neither. Bottom 100, indeed.
Nearly every aspect of this film is a mess. Even the production history of the film was a disaster, with numerous studios possessing the rights for almost ten years, and once the film was finally created, it was shelved for a few years more before finally being "bestowed" upon the viewing public. The casting is solid, with a sexy lead female who can draw in male audiences (and act, to boot!), and a pile of character actors to fill in the rest of the undefined background characters, but the acting itself lives up to the poor reviews. It's impossible to care about any of the characters. They get hurt, who cares? They die? One less bad performance! The script is flawed, free from any real suspense, containing one of the more anti-climactic climaxes in film history. Dominic Sena ('Gone in Sixty Seconds,' 'Swordfish') gets the "credit" for this mess, a film in which it's hard to care for the main character, the plight, the plot, or the conclusion. Basically, the film easily lulls one into a state of complacency. Or anger. It can definitely induce anger.
To be frank, watching 'Whiteout' made me wish for a blackout, so that I could delay the inevitable, having to finish this uninspired, insipid mess. Red blooded males will get what they want early (as the very first scene with Beckinsale has her acting like any other US Marshall, disrobing, taking the time to bend over right in front of the camera, and taking a nice, long, steamy shower), but viewers looking for suspense, coherency, and a decent plot will have to look elsewhere. I was left with two regrets following my viewing of this film: one, that I had just spent nearly two hours of my life that I'd never get back, and two, I should have put some chorizo in that chili.
The AVC MPEG-4 encode (at 1080p, 2.35:1) afforded 'Whiteout' is hardly a winner, though it gets the job done. From the very first shot, the blacks were superb, the stars in the sky showing nice depth, but there was light banding in the Aurora Borealis below that somewhat killed the nice mood, an omen of things to come in the film. Banding was again present as the plane in the opening sequence descended from the heavens, and would show up very lightly on occasion throughout the rest of the film. Artifacting was a non-issue, as was aliasing. What was an issue was contrast wavering, and the fact that the film would go from sharp to dull and back again in cutaways in the same scene. There is a possibility some of the softness was caused by manipulation after the fact. There is some light haloing to be found, as well. Shadow detail is minimal at best, with some very crushy blacks. This is hardly the ideal film for the high def experience, considering the filming climate (see the special features for more on that!), and, sadly enough, most of the problems in this release come from interior shots, instead.
The audio for 'Whiteout' defaults to the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless mix. For those incapable of getting lossless sound in their receivers, a Dolby Digital 5.1 track will play instead.
The dialogue for the film was a bit difficult, as it was for the most part clear, but occasionally drowned out by even light atmospheric effects. The bass levels for the film started strong, particularly in the score, and seemingly faded away. Rear presence was nice, with plenty of activity hitting the non-front speakers, and was a major part of the best effect in this film: wind chill. The frigid, icy winds run through the room like you're there freezing your ass off alongside Beckinsale, and they're as believable as they are constant. Gunshots hit rears nicely, but lacked any real pop or depth. A solid, passable track, for a film quite the opposite of said adjectives.
The lone extra on the DVD release is also included on the Blu-ray, in glorious standard definition.
If ever there were a case study for underwhelming films that are all scenery and no substance, 'Whiteout' would be on the list. The only Beckinsale scenery happens early on, after that, the lovely lass is buried beneath layers and layers of heavy clothing, killing the only thing the film really had going for it. This Blu-ray sports good audio and video, but a pathetic pile of extras. Rent it, if you must, Beckinsale fans.