DVD Review: Whiteout (2009) Movie UK R2

There’s a scene in the first ten minutes of “Whiteout” where Kate Beckinsale gets undressed and has a completely unnecessary and gratuitous shower. At this point I thought the film was AMAZING.

Then for the next hour and a half Kate Beckinsale puts on LOADS of clothes and has no showers. This film ended up being not as good as I thought it was going to be.

Aside from the lack of showers (and giant transforming robots – the essential ingredient to any great film) “Whiteout” does offer other attractions such as: snow, naked non-Kate Beckinsale male streaking, pickaxes, plot twists, snow, the slowest chase scenes you’ll see this year (you can put that on the DVD cover), drinking games, mysterious parka-wearing maniacs and snow. Oh and loads of fucking snow as well.

At some points there’s so much snow it looks like you’re watching a really bad pirate copy of the film – I can’t imagine what an actual pirate copy would look like, but you certainly wouldn’t be able to tell what was going on. So, if films like “AVP: Requiem” and “Ninja Assassin” (i.e. films where it’s quite difficult to follow onscreen action) don’t float your boat, it may be wise to stay clear from “Whiteout”.

However, as with the dark, shadowy scenes in “Ninja Assassin”, the bukkake blizzards of “Whiteout” fit the story and rather than detract from the excitement, actually add to it. The fact that you can’t tell what’s going on allows you to empathise with the characters, as it almost feels like you’re struggling to see exactly what it is that they are – it’s like being in the snowstorm with them.

But what is it that Kate is straining to see? Well, as the trailers have shown, it’s the guy from “Urban Legend” with a ski mask on and a pickaxe, and he’s chasing her along a rope (more about that later). However, “Whiteout” is not the slasher film that the trailers led you to believe, and is in fact a mystery-based thriller that plays out more like a modern version of “The Thing” but without the alien. Of course I won’t compare it too closely with “The Thing”, because it’s not nearly as good, it just shares the same underlying sense of isolation and paranoia associated with the tension surrounding a group of people stranded in a remote Antarctic base while something is trying to kill them. Oh and there’s loads of snow in it as well.

The plot surrounds Beckinsale’s U.S Marshall and her reluctant stationing in the Antarctica – which we are informed is the most isolated landmass in the world – and her discovery of a dead body in the snow. The deeper she investigates, the deeper the shit becomes and eventually people start chasing each other around with pickaxes, while holding onto ropes. The ropes of which I talk are the connecting guidelines between buildings that are used to direct and stabilise the workers through blizzards, and are the basis of most of the chase-sequences. In order to use the rope, you have to attach yourself to it using a carabiner and then detach and re-attach each time you get to a pole, something which must be extremely frustrating when being pursued by some nutjob with an axe. As a result of this, and the heavy wind, the chases are slowed down to less than walking pace, and thus aren’t as exhilarating as they had the potential to be. Still, it’s a minor gripe and on the whole, the action is exciting enough – I just couldn’t get the stupid ropes out of my mind.

“Whiteout” isn’t really about action though, as most of the running-time is devoted to Beckinsale working her way through the many clues and red-herrings that she faces, and alas, as with the action, the rest of the film is resultantly also just above mediocre. It’s certainly serviceable enough as a claustrophobic thriller, but so much more could have been done with the fantastic and unique setting. It’s therefore this lost potential that irks the most, as films like “30 Days of Night” and “Jack Frost” handled the location with a verve that wrought extra tension and originality from a situation which has been explored previously.

Basically, as with many films nowadays – the trailer was better than the film. Don’t watch the trailer and leave any expectations at the door, and it’s quite possible you’ll enjoy “Whiteout”. Most likely due to Beckinsale, who is good as always and pretty much carries the entire film, but is not left completely out in the cold by the supporting cast, who are all believable enough. Overall, it’s nothing particularly original but it does its job, as it provides just enough excitement and windy thrills to last an hour and a half. It’s also got some surprise twists and turns along the way which add up to a ‘WOW I DIDN’T SEE THAT ONE COMING etc etc’ finale. Also the scene with the dogs mutating everywhere and eating each other while Kurt Russell shouts a bit is AMAZING.

The R2 DVD from Optimum comes with a making-of, a comic-to-screen comparison, some deleted scenes and a trailer. The comic-to-screen feature is the most interesting as it interviews the creators of the graphic novel – a book which actually looks quite good. The DVD also comes with some new-fangled special feature called ‘pause’ which makes the screen freeze (must be some joke to do with snow), and it makes the bit at the beginning much better, you know, the bit with the shower. It makes that part much longer and makes up for the lack of showers later on and is well worth the price of the DVD.

Dominic Sena (director) / Jon Hoeber, Erich Hoeber, Carey Hayes (screenplay), Greg Rucka, Steve Lieber (graphic novel)
CAST: Kate Beckinsale … Carrie Stetko
Gabriel Macht … Robert Pryce
Tom Skerritt … Dr. John Fury
Columbus Short … Delfy
Alex O’Loughlin … Russell Haden
Shawn Doyle … Sam Murphy
Joel S. Keller … Jack

Buy Whiteout on DVD