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Case Number 18123

Buy Whiteout at Amazon


Warner Bros. // 2009 // 100 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Clark Douglas // January 19th, 2010

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All Rise...

Judge Clark Douglas thinks the film works better if you sniff whiteout before viewing it.

Editor's Note

Our review of Whiteout (Blu-Ray), published January 18th, 2010, is also available.

The Charge

See your last breath.

Opening Statement

"I never meant for anyone to get hurt."

Facts of the Case

US Marshal Carrie Stetko (Kate Beckinsale, Underworld) is about to retire. She is, as they say, "getting too old for this $#%!." She's haunted by violent memories, and she's ready to hang it up. At the moment, Carrie is stationed in Antarctica, serving as the local law enforcement on an American military base. Just as she's preparing to head back home, she makes a startling discovery. The body of an FBI agent is found in the snow. He has been murdered. There's a killer on the loose, and it's up to Stetko to find the murderer before more people are hurt. Can she finish this one last job before she finishes her career?

The Evidence

Being a comic book junkie of sorts, I had my eye on Dominic Sena's Whiteout as soon as the project was announced. The comic book miniseries by writer Greg Rucka and artist Steve Lieber is an impressive little crime thriller; a sharp tale with strong characterizations and a couple of nifty twists. It certainly seemed to have a great deal of cinematic potential. Alas, the movie was pummeled by the critics, so my expectations dropped considerably. Given the reviews, I expected something spectacularly awful, but alas, Whiteout isn't spectacular in any regard. It's the least interesting sort of bad movie, a boring one that just doesn't give you any reason to give a damn about anything that happens.

The plot isn't altered significantly from the one presented in the book, but it's helmed with such lifeless banality that it's nearly impossible to get involved in the mystery. Essentially, the film version of Whiteout is a dull slasher flick that has about as bland a villain as it's humanly possible to have. The scenes in which a mysterious figure cloaked in black winter-wear attempts to kill people with his pickaxe are supposed to be tense and frightening, but instead they're just silly. There's just something goofy about a guy running around in a blizzard waving a little tool at people, or maybe this movie has just found a way of convincing me of that.

The mystery of the killer isn't particularly tough to solve, as there are only a handful of candidates and they start to get narrowed down pretty quickly. No fair telling which supporting player is the murderer, but suffice it to say that absolutely none of them is very compelling (lest you think that my comment about the murderer being bland would give it away). Gabriel Macht follows his unsuccessful turn as The Spirit with an even less successful performance in Whiteout, routinely delivering his lines with a weary lack of enthusiasm. Tom Skerritt (Alien) is generically warm n' friendly as the base doctor, while Columbus Short (Cadillac Records) barely even registers as the helpful Delfy.

Still, I was particularly disappointed in Carrie Stetko, given her literary inspiration. Rucka has a history of writing strong, nuanced female characters, and his version of Stetko was no different. Alas, the movie has transformed her into a thoroughly uninteresting stock hero, with no distinct personality traits or distinguishing features to set her apart from any other heroic movie character. Beckinsale's performance isn't bad; it's just that she doesn't really have a whole lot to work with. If the writing doesn't give you anything, it's hard to deliver strong work.

It's telling that the only moments that manage to inject any life at all into the movies are the scenes in which the icy temperatures afflict people in gross ways. See one character's hand skin peel off as they attempt to close an icy door! See a character's body split in half as people attempt to remove the body from the ice! See frozen bits of flesh! See a character's frozen fingers amputated! These bits provide a reliable bit of, "Ewww, disgusting!," which is at least a more engaged reaction than, "How long did you say this movie was, again?"

The DVD transfer is just fine, conveying the imagery with relative clarity and detail. Despite the Antarctic setting, the movie is not overwhelmed by seas of white, but rather has quite a few scenes that take place in rather dark settings. Shading is solid, blacks are deep, and flesh tones are fairly accurate. Audio is also good, with the dialogue blending very well with the complex sound design and John Frizzell's stellar original score. The only extra on the disc is a batch of deleted scenes.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

I really wish that I could find something positive to say about the film, because it's much less aggressively bad than quite a few films I've seen recently. Alas, Whiteout just doesn't have anything worthwhile to offer.

Closing Statement


The Verdict


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Scales of Justice

Video: 90
Audio: 88
Extras: 10
Acting: 60
Story: 60
Judgment: 60

Perp Profile

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• 2.35:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
• English
• English (SDH)
• French
• Spanish
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated R
• Mystery
• Thriller

Distinguishing Marks

• Deleted Scenes


• IMDb

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