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Thursday
Sep102009

Whiteout

I planned on starting this review off with a zinger, comparing the new Kate Beckinsale movie, Whiteout, to BIC's Wite-Out, saying that the purpose of Wite-Out is to erase errors on written documents and that Whiteout's script should have been covered in it. I was going to bash this movie to high heavens because I didn't like it, but as I sit here and think about what I just saw, I realize that I didn't really not like it either. Whiteout is one of those movies where there isn't much to object to, but neither is there much to praise.

It begins high in the sky in a plane flying over Antarctica in 1957. On board is a mysterious box that the two pilots for some reason want all to themselves. While one steers the plane, the other is tasked with killing everybody else in the back. However, his would-be victims fight back, killing both pilots, causing the plane to crash. Flash forward to the present day and a government team stationed at a base in Antarctica is preparing to finally head home. On a routine mission, Carrie (Kate Beckinsale) discovers a dead body and brings it back to the base. There, she deduces that he didn't die of natural causes, but was instead murdered. Carrie, being the resident law enforcer, is tasked with hunting down the killer and discovering the motive behind his heinous acts, though visions of her past come back to haunt her, making her job emotionally tormenting.

Like I said, Whiteout is a film I sat through equivocally torn, wanting to tear it apart due to its own mediocrity, but understanding that it was that mediocrity that placed it firmly in the middle of the good-bad spectrum. The dialogue is rarely laughable, but it's also rarely interesting. There aren't any characters to hate, but none to embrace either. The story isn't good, but it manages to hold at least some level of intrigue.

Though the film never grabbed hold of me, it never bored me, that is until the last act rolled around and the tiny bit of momentum it had up to that point went crashing to the ground. Besides becoming simply another routine chase picture with minimal suspense, it also reveals why Carrie has become so emotionally distraught (which should come as no surprise, but to be fair, stop reading here if you want to avoid spoilers). Her visions show that her partner back in the states turned against her and let an arrested criminal free, which forced her to shoot him. The absurdity of the situation is that she wasn't upset because she had killed her partner, but rather that she was unable to tell that he had switched sides. She was worried that her detective skills were waning. Three cheers for stupidity.

Though the movie could have (and should have) ended with the death of the killer (or killers), Whiteout decides to take it one step further and go on for another 15 minutes, with a "surprise" twist you'll easily see coming based on the events up to that point. The real problem isn't from its overall predictability, but from the fact that it is one of the stupidest, most anti-climactic endings I've seen all year. Though I won't give it away, I will say this. It is wholly unnecessary and should have been left out to shorten the movie and make it slightly more bearable.

Whiteout is one of those movies that doesn't understand that film is a visual medium and not everything needs to be spoken through dialogue. The characters usually speak in small sentences that repeat what the audience has already established for themselves based on the onscreen cues. When there is a dead body, we don't need to hear them say it, as if the fact that the frozen, bloody corpse lying there wasn't enough to tip us off. Or take for instance, the opening text that sets the scene, saying, "Antarctica: The coldest, most isolated land mass on the planet." Whoa, there partner. Slow down. Antarctica is cold and isolated? You don't say.

Whiteout is dumb. It's insulting in its simplicity, though it pretends to be a deep journey into the heart of evil. Instead, it's just a spruced up slasher film, complete with a guy in a mask appearing out of nowhere and hacking people up. But it never really veers too far off and somehow manages to keep chugging along even when things seem to be going irredeemably astray. It's not a good movie by any means, but it takes no more than a minute after Kate Beckinsale's character is introduced for the filmmakers to get her clothes off, so that's saying something.

Whiteout receives 2/5

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