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A movie directed by Dominic Sena

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My Brain Needs a Whiteout

  • Sep 12, 2009
Did you know in Antartica there's a storm that comes by in which you can't see even six inches in front of you and it's called a "Whiteout" because you can't see anything but white?  Did you know the title of the movie really doesn't have anything to do with said storm at all?  It's true.  It just happens to take place in Antarctica during this storm, but it's hardly a huge plot device or anything like that.  The trailer for the film makes it look like  something completely different than what you're actually getting.  The trailer gives it a more horrific and mysterious vibe.  It's really hardly anything like that.


By now it should be clear that movie trailers are about as trustworthy as a crack addict telling you he's sober.  That "Creepy" horrorlike vibe you see in the trailer?  That's not what the movie is about at all.  Actually, this preview hardly gives you any idea what the movie is about.  It wouldn't be the first time Hollywood dressed up a trailer as something else.  Sometimes when this happens the result ends up being a good movie anyway.  Other times it ends up being worse than what you actually saw in the trailer.  But it did its job and made me curious.  For those who don't know, September and October are often slow months in the theaters... where you get a slew of mostly horror type movies out there.  Sometimes they're good, but most times it's just Hollywood's way of killing time until the Holidays.  And boy does Whiteout kill time.  100 minutes to be exact.  If I could go back in time and kick my own ass to incapacitate myself so that I wouldn't have sit through this movie, I would totally do it.  I can enjoy a bad movie every now and then... when it's so bad it's laughable.  I sat through Final Destination 3D for this very reason.  White Out is surprising in the sense that it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, but when you've got low expectations it's not hard to get them.  On the other hand... it's still pretty bad, but for reasons a film like this really shouldn't be.

The film begins in 1957, showing a Soviet Cargo Plane flying over Antarctica.  For what appears to be absolutely no reason at all the co-pilot comes in and starts shooting some of the crew members.  He doesn't fully succeed, and they fight back.  Eventually the pilot gets shot and the plane goes down and is lost for more than 50 years.

Enter Kate Beckinsale, who plays Carrie Stetko.  She's a US Marshall Deputy who has been assigned to a base in Antarctica.  And she's lucky that she's got a good friend with her named Dr. John Fury (Tom Skerritt) because she needs company.  It's getting to the point where those on base need to pack up and go before the big winter storm comes in.  And it would be easy for Carrie to pack up and go if she didn't discover a dead body out on the Artic ice.  It looks as though he fell, but he's got no mountain climbing gear with him.  Before she can leave Antarctica, she decides that she'll have to solve this murder.  She's a little nervous about how well she can do because she once had a partner who turned out to be a bad guy... but blames herself for not being able to see through it.  This is what we get in a series of flashbacks, but they come off as silly and forced... and ultimately it isn't needed.  What we see in flashbacks could've easily been explained in dialog.

The murder mystery gets deeper, however, as Carrie decides to investigate another Antarctica base that she's called to.  She heads off with a man named Delfy (Columbus Short) to investigate.  And in the process of investigating, she's attacked by a man who apparently murdered those at the base she went in to investigate.  She barely escapes, but in the process her fingers get badly damaged by the cold.  After resting for a bit, Carrie and Delfy run into a UN Inspector who showed up while they were sleeping.  This guy literally shows up out of nowhere.  But moving on, Carrie, Delfy and this UN Inspetor (played by Gabriel Macht) eventually come across the plane that crashed over 50 years ago, and what they discover is that the plane was holding some secrets.  Somehow Carrie is able to deduce exactly what happened despite having so little to go off of... which is strange because the whole point of those flashbacks was to show us how Carrie misses things.  Yet here she is so perceptive that she puts all the clues together before her friends seem to realize they are in trouble.  And it turns out there is something about this downed Soviet Plane... and the secrets it holds.

We'll stop there, I wouldn't want to give too much away.  The biggest problem that Whiteout has actually stems from the fact that it throws in a little too much.  It's not really so much bad as it is sloppy.  It all comes together in the end but when you're busy trying to make connections out of what the movie gives you up front, it's already stacking something else on there.  Piecing it all together can be a headache.  The story is just way too jumbled, throwing in so much... and yet while much of it comes together, it still leaves you with a lot of questions.  We understand the Plane went down in 1957, but it is unknown just how the main bad guys involved actually know about it... or know anything about its secrets.  It's never explained.  We can make some connections, but the movie leaves such gaping holes and gives us little info to fill them in for ourselves.  And the film takes itself very seriously.  There are a lot of twists and turns, but you sometimes wonder if they're there for the sake of adding to the plot or if they're there so that we can see just how clever the screenwriters are.

What you're really getting is a Suspense/Thriller, but the suspense just isn't all that captivating.  Alfred Hitchcock once stated that suspense isn't about whether or not the audience knows what'll happen, it's about whether or not they know how the characters will get there.  In short, we're settling in for the ride.  In most cases we know how the books and movies we enjoy end.  The cop (or in this case Marshall) gets the man she's looking for.  Unfortunately the ride just isn't that exciting.  Whenever characters get themselves in situations the solution is often all too obvious, or the suspense just isn't strong enough.  There are some moments when you'll be thrilled, but there's never any moment when you're worried about the characters safety or well being.  And even if there was such a moment, the only character we learn anything about is Carrie.  She's the only character we really come to know.

As I said, however, it wasn't as bad as I expected it to be.  The plot is sloppy and the "surprise" of an ending isn't really much of a surprise at all, but the movie actually seemed like it was trying to be good.  There aren't a lot of moments of suspense, but there is a thrilling moment or two.  Actually, if there had been more organization in the plot itself, Whiteout might've actually been a worthwhile movie.  The secret of the Soviets also isn't that worthwhile.

Apparently Whiteout is a Graphic Novel written by Greg Rucka.  I've not read it (or even heard of it, for that matter).  Perhaps I'll pick it up sometime.  I can't imagine the graphic novel would be filled with nearly as many plot holes as the movie adapted from it.  The performances aren't strong, but they're not unbearable either (though I must confess, I wasn't sure if Gabriel Macht was supposed to be so robotic or not).  

Your head won't explode from watching the film, you just might find yourself confused for a moment trying to piece together everything the film gives you, becaue it keeps adding wood to an already dead fire.  If you can muddle your way through the mess of a plot, you might actually enjoy it.

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September 13, 2009
My co-worker saw this last Tuesday and thought it was alright. Thanks for the warning on this one, I'll skip it in theaters. I am however, a fan of Kate Beckinsale so I am pretty sure that I will be checking this out on dvd. Nice info on the graphic novel roots, I will check that one out.
More Whiteout reviews
review by . February 20, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Despite the numerous bad reviews director Dominic Sena’s “WHITEOUT” had received I decided to give the movie a rent and see just how bad a movie can really get. I liked Sena’s work in the film “KALIFORNIA” and even tolerated the brainless action flick called “Swordfish”. Sure, the director took time off and if this film is any indication, he definitely needs to get back on the saddle since it is obviously a sign that he is all ’rusted out’ …
review by . May 06, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Kate Beckinsale, Tom Skerritt - cool setting but it adds up to near nothing. Even the basic script was decent but the execution took care of that. A lot of poorly and overdone CGI didn't help much either nor did the actual cause of everything add up. Or the storyline - which in parts was silly.     In total a really bad movie in a nice package. Kate and Tom could do nothing to salvage what was or wasn't there.
review by . December 29, 2009
I knew when the opening scene had Kate Beckinsdale getting into a shower that it was the only thing they could do to get the audience's attention. It's pretty much downhill from there, descending into a TV episode set in snow. Lacking the supernatural element of the almost-as-bad "The Last Winter" and trying to salvage the best bits from The Thing and that episode of the X Files set in Alaska, it's a mish-mash of ludicrous plot points and terrible dialog. The best part is when Kate gets …
Quick Tip by . February 20, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
All I can say is this was a terrible and confusing movie. Not recommended!
About the reviewer
Sean A. Rhodes ()
Ranked #7
I'm a more analytical person. I believe that the purpose of the review is not for me to give you my opinion but for me to give you an analysis and help you decide if you want to get it. If you reading … more
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About this movie


A lone U.S. marshal stationed in Antarctica is drawn into a shocking murder investigation. With only three days until winter, she must solve the crime before the continent is plunged into darkness and she is trapped with the killer.Genres:Action/Adventure, Thriller and Adaptation Release Date:September 11th, 2009 (wide) MPAA Rating:R for violence, grisly images, brief strong language and some nudity. Distributors:Sony Pictures Releasing, Warner Bros. Pictures Distribution See Full Details
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Director: Dominic Sena
Release Date: September 11th, 2009 (wide)
MPAA Rating: R
DVD Release Date: January 19, 2010
Runtime: 1 hr. 41 min.
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures Distribution
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