Starring Kate Beckinsale, Gabriel Macht, and Tom Skerritt. Rated 14A
What do you call a whodunit where everybody runs around wearing identical big-hooded parkas and big, tinted snow goggles? Uh, confusing? Bingo. In the Antarctica-set wannabe thriller Whiteout, it is a tad tricky to spot the killer under all that regulation puffy Gore-Tex—and you can’t tell who the hell anybody else is, either.
Watch the trailer for Whiteout.
Well, that’s not entirely true. When Kate Beckinsale wears the requisite floppy-ear fur hat, she looks more like a cover girl for Russian Vogue than the tough-but-vulnerable (natch) U.S. marshal she’s supposed to be. Her character, Carrie Stetko, is also the only one at the isolated research station who takes a steamy shower minutes into the film. At least she’s superclean when she’s tracking the murderer.
It all starts when somebody finds a “Popsicle”—cute Antarctica slang for frozen dead person. Because the Popsicle, a geologist, has had his face half hacked away, Carrie wisely heads off alone to investigate an even more isolated research location, despite the objections of the grandfatherly station doc (a sheepish-looking Tom Skerritt). Okay, she does have the company of her pilot, Delfy (Columbus Short), the obligatory single-named black character. A crashed Soviet airplane possibly containing valuable cargo pops up, as does a sexyish-but-suspect FBI guy (Gabriel Macht)—and, oh, yeah, the killer.
Maybe snow blindness struck director Dominic Sena (Swordfish) and his four screenwriters, as they transformed Greg Rucka’s graphic novel into an uncomfortably numb movie. Whatever the affliction, the Whiteout team blacked out in the rather key departments of suspense, claustrophobic paranoia, scares, and logic (if you want those, rewatch John Carpenter’s The Thing). One blizzardy dodge-the-killer sequence is actually rendered unintentionally hilarious by all of the indistinguishable parka-clad people sliding around. Yes, the murderer is the one with the scythelike ice axe.