Blu-ray Review: Whiteout
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DVD | Blu-ray | Video On Demand
Directed by Dominic Sena
Starring Kate Beckinsale, Tom Skerritt, Gabriel Macht
Warner Bros Home Entertainment
Release date: January 19, 2010

In the frozen wasteland of the South Pole a serve storm, known as a ‘whiteout’, is rapidly making its way to the across Antarctica, prompting an early winter evacuation of a geological encampment. All non-evaculating personal will stay behind for the winter with no flights in or out for six months, so those scheduled for winter leave have get out now. Agent Carrie Stetko (Kate Beckinsale) is one of the people on their way out. After a two-year stint in Antarctica, the agent is ready to leave her sub-zero beat and resign from her position as a U.S. Marshal all together. Unfortunately, just as she’s about to finally leave, a body is found on the ice, with evidence of foul play. While her friend, Dr. Fury (Tom Skerritt) offers to ship the body elsewhere to absolve Carrie of her duties, the Agent decides to continue the investigation herself with only days left to solve the case before she’s stuck there for the winter.

Based on the graphic novel by Greg Rucka and Steve Lieber, Whiteout takes quite a few liberties from its source material, the major one being how Agent Stetko is presented. In the film, Beckinsale plays Agent Stetko as a beautiful, yet withdrawn woman married to the job which she seemingly once loved, but is now conflicted about after a pre-Antarctica drug bust gone array left her traumatized. In the comic, Agent Stetko’s reasons for taking an assignment in Antarctica remain the same — to run away from the trauma from her previous assignment — but how others treat her is entirely different.

Beckingsale is cool and calm and her stunning beauty — even in a place where her skin should be dried and chapped! — make her entirely likable. There’s not a hint of any resentment or animosity towards her by anyone in the camp. Not so for illustrated Agent Stetko, whose looks are more of a rugged nature, as is her demeanor. And while Beckinsale’s character only has to deal with some hot guy flirting with her once, the book’s character faces sexual discrimination and has a boss breathing down her neck to solve the murder or else!

If you’re a fan of the comic, you’ll realize right away that Whiteout the film is not exactly the story you love, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the film. I’ll admit, during my first viewing I just could not stop comparing it to the comic, wondering why they had to change so much of it, but after analyzing it, I realized why. Do moviegoers really want to see a not-so-attractive hard-ass woman being mistreated by her co-workers and berated by her boss while stuck in Antarctica investigating a murder case that’s seemingly impossible to solve? Probably not (though, I swear, it makes a great read). The filmmakers really wanted to make the audience like Stetko, have sympathy for her, and find her attractive, and they succeeded.

One of the earlier scenes is of Carrie coming in from the cold and undressing in her quarters. At first, you can justify this striptease as trying to show the audience just how many layers of clothing are necessary for survival on the base. What I found laughable about this was that the undressing was done at the slowest pace I’ve ever seen with the musical score behind it just as slow, and leading to Carrie taking the slowest shower in cinematic history. I have a hard time believing that an experienced U.S. Marshal dresses and showers that slowly. But it’s this sequence that allows you to see her beautiful skin and body before she’s covered up for the rest of the film in 15 layers of clothing topped by a massive parka while chasing down a killer in the middle of a whiteout.

Most of the characters are unmemorable in Whiteout, which makes it a bit confusing when you’re trying to figure out who the killer could possibly be, as well as who was that they just found dead this time? (There’s several of those.) But Beckinsale totally carries the entire movie, which was actually nice, I mean, when was the last time you saw a female lead carry an action-thriller film? Exactly. How she handles the detective work, as well as her run-ins with the killer and subsequent injuries were the main thrills of the film. Gabriel Macht did a good job as U.N. detective Robert Pryce, though his sudden appearance in the middle of the film is distracting as you wonder too much about his motives: Does he has anything to do with the murders, is he really there to help, does he have ulterior motives?

I’ve always been intrigued by the remote wasteland that is Antarctica, so setting the action-thriller there was the major draw for me. In this world of high-tech communication and instant access to everything and everyone, to know that there’s still a place that’s far from accessible is intriguing. To wonder what would happen if one were trapped there with a killer? Even more so. And while I felt that the murders as well as the reveal of the killer were quite boring, I thought the masked killer we see most of the time was pretty badass. There were even times where Whiteout went from simple thriller to horror flick, and I really liked that. If marketed properly, the Antarctica ice-axe killer (my name for the killer) could have really been been a pop culture hit — his get-up was just so cool. There’s a few sequences where Carrie and the killer face off outside the camp and its under these circumstances where the ante is upped, as the elements themselves — minus 60 below temperatures with deadly winds! — could be the killer, forget the damn ice axe!

I ended up watching Whiteout three more times along with family members, and everyone seemed to like the film, but admitted that multiple viewings were necessary to totally understand who’s been killed and why. But, everyone had fun trying to put the clues of the mystery together.

In the end, Whiteout gives us a unique setting for a typical action-thriller murder mystery, and is worth a watch if you can keep all the pieces of the puzzle together.

Bonus Features

The Coldest Thriller Ever: [12:02] A featurette on what it was like filming under extreme temperatures and the places used to represent Antarctica, like Lake Manitoba in Canada. This is exactly the kind of featurette I wanted for this film. One of the best parts about Whiteout is the conditions under which the story is set, and it was great to see that most of the movie was actually filmed in such places that mirrored those of Antarctica. Most of what we’re seeing is really the actors out on the ice in freezing conditions, not back at a Hollywood sound studio. To me, this makes a big difference.

Whiteout: From Page to Screen: [12:05] A look at bringing Greg Rucka’s graphic novel to the big screen. Writer Greg Rucka and artist Steve Lieber, whose graphic novel was the basis for the film, are the driving force behind this featurette. It goes into how Rucka came up with the idea of doing a murder mystery in Antarctica, and how the creative team crafted the characters. Rucka goes on about the drafts of the screenplay and producers and production designers talk about trying to stay true to some areas of the comic, but also taking some liberties for the big screen. Being a fan of the comic, I definitely wanted to hear the story origins straight from the creators. I was glad to see the filmmakers address the liberties they took with the source material. Despite those liberties, I can see why Ruck seemed to genuinely like how his comic was adapted, especially since the film was well-made and looked amazing, especially in Blu-ray.

Additional scenes:

These are a few deleted scenes from the film, none of which were integral, though there is one part where we see Agent Stetko looking into a possible case in Antarctica before the murder occurs. It’s here we see how mindless her daily beat is and we even get a glimpse at her paperwork.

Digital Copy

This edition comes with a disc that contains a Digital Copy which can be used to download the movie to your computer, where it can also be transferred to a portable device, like an iPod.

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