out of Five
Running time: 101
Whiteout has a good premise and a likeable lead, but it goes rapidly downhill and is ultimately disappointing, thanks to confusing direction, an anti-climactic finale and an 'Is that it?' plot that makes less sense the more you think about it.
What's it all about?
Directed by Dominic Sena (from a script credited to two different sets of brothers – never a good sign), Whiteout stars Kate Beckinsale as US Marshal Carrie Stetko, who's taken a post at a remote research station in Antarctica in order to escape a traumatic incident in her past. As her posting nears an end, she's considering turning in her badge, but her departure plans are put on hold by the discovery of a mysterious body on the ice.
As she investigates the region's first ever murder, Stetko encounters a masked, pick-axe-wielding killer, who is promptly ignored in favour of further investigation elsewhere. Aided by friendly pilot Delfy (Columbus Short) and UN Investigator Pryce (Gabriel Macht), Stetko becomes convinced the murders have something to do with the cargo of a Russian plane that's been under the ice since the 1950s.
Whiteout peaks early with an entirely gratuitous scene involving Beckinsale stripping down to her underwear and taking a shower. From then on, it's downhill all the way, as the mystery makes less and less sense as it goes along, occasionally pausing for an embarrassingly cheesy flashback to the traumatic incident in Stetko's past (which turns out to have no bearing at all on the plot).
That said, Beckinsale makes a likeable, watchable lead and there's good support from twinkly old Tom Skerritt as Doc.
The set-up is intriguing, but both the premise and the unique location are quickly squandered by a script that bears all the hallmarks of reshoots and re-editing. As a result, the climax of the film is a real 'Is that it?' moment, whilst the actual mystery falls apart completely the moment you think about it.
Similarly, the film's key set-piece (a deadly game of guide-rope-based cat-and-mouse in a vicious snowstorm) is badly directed in that you can't tell who's attacking who, or who's attached to what.
Beckinsale's performance ensures that Whiteout remains watchable (you'd happily watch another thriller with the same character), but the end result is disappointing, thanks to confusing direction and a nonsensical plot.