The Motion/Captured Review: ‘Whiteout’ offers chill, but few thrills

09.11.09 8 years ago

AP Photo/Warner Bros. Pictures

“Whiteout” isn’t a movie it’s likely many people are going to hate.

It’s also not a movie many people are going to remember.

It’s not the sort of movie anyone’s going to be passionate enough about to hate.  It’s a movie that left me completely indifferent.  I watched it.  It’s a movie.  If you ask me about it a year from now, I’ll be hard-pressed to describe it in any detail.  It’s Teflon.

I haven’t read Greg Rucka’s original comic book, but it’s well-respected and well-liked by a number of comic fans I trust, so I’ve got to assume it’s better than this.  The problem here is that, setting aside, this is such a painfully familiar, by-the-numbers sort of mystery that there’s no tension, no reason to engage at all.  It’s just a series of dull events strung together with some cheap suspense technique, none of which convinced or involved me.

Carrie Stetko (Kate Beckinsale) is a U.S. Marshall, and like all cops in bad movies, she’s got a History.  You know… the kind with a lot of slow-motion flashbacks and with a specific set of incidents that thematically tie in to the new incident she finds herself involved in.  Convenient, eh?

[more after the jump]

She ran from those painful memories, ran and hid in the one place where she figured she could still be a Marshall without really having to deal with trouble:  Antarctica.  And while I heard several people at the screening I went to loudly opining that “The only thing that really matters in a murder-mystery is setting,” that is fucking stupid.  And wrong.  A setting is important, sure, and a great setting provides with with a number of opportunities.  But if you don’t take advantage of those opportunities with good characters and a mystery that actually engages the audience, then there’s no point.  Who cares about the setting if nothing else works?

There are a few other characters we meet on the base where Stetko is stationed.  There’s the kindly Doc Fury (Tom Skerrit), a pilot named Delfy (Columbus Short), and a lecherous Australian pilot named Haden (Alex O’Loughlin), and if you can’t figure out who the bad guys are from about eight minutes into the film, then “Whiteout” might be your first movie ever.  It’s that obvious.

A dead body shows up on the ice, a long-buried Russian plane is uncovered, and everyone gets crazy about a couple of tubes of something mysterious.  And what should play out as a frozen riff on “Ten Little Indians” if they paid off the way they set the movie up ends up just sort of laying there, belly up.  None of the set pieces work.  There’s a strange sequence or two that are almost like a slasher film got cut into the middle of the movie, but even that gets mishandled.

By the time Gabriel Macht shows up as a mysterious agent who may or may not be working to help Carrie, I had tuned out completely.  There’s just no effort to make these types into people, and when you have an obviously capable cast like this, it’s doubly confounding.  Dominic Sena comes from a strong commercial and music video background, and making pretty pictures has never been a problem for him, but he’s one of those guys who I don’t think has ever directed a single moment of honest human behavior onscreen.  It makes me wonder sometimes how that’s even possible.  How is it that you can make movie after movie, and yet there’s nothing in any of them that feels honest, genuinely observed?  Everything is staged, fake, hol

The film’s big action climax is a series of stop-and-start set pieces that go nowhere.  Kate Beckinsale, so good in films like “Snow Angels,” has nothing to do here.  And as good an idea as it might sound at first, “the first murder at Antarctica” turns out to leave only the audience as victims.  I’d call it a disappointment, but I didn’t walk in with any expectations.

Curious to hear from fans of the book once they’ve seen it.  Does this resemble the thing you enjoyed?  Let me know.

Now it’s time to finish that “Jennifer’s Body” review so I can grab a nap before a new Coen Brothers movie in the morning.

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