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WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

Carrie Stetko (Beckinsale) is a US Marshall, who’s ended up policing a sleepy American base in Antarctica, after a rather more stressful time in Florida.
But even a quieter environment hasn’t helped her come to terms with her life, so she’s handed in her notice. She’ll see the job through until the winter comes in and then return to the US – and a regular job.
How frustrated must she have been, when in the dying moments of her job, bodies start turning up on the ice.
The chief scientist on the base, John Fury (Skerritt) says he could just bag the bodies and send them back to the US, but she chooses – out of pride – to stick around and see the investigation through – even though she realises that if she doesn’t tie up the loose ends before the winter white-out comes in, she’ll be stuck there until the spring.
As the bodies start piling up, the investigation gets drawn out and the US pilots, scientists and outside investigators get drawn in.
Who did it? What were they after? And will one last job reignite her passion for policing?

WHAT’S IT LIKE?

A whiteout, we are told, is an Antarctic snow storm so severe that you can’t see more than six inches in front of you. That would have been a blessing for anyone sitting through this film, except – perhaps – for the opening scene.
My fellow viewers laughed heartily during that scene – not because of any funny lines or clever humour – it was the gratuitous way in which Kate Beckinsale arrives in her living quarters, takes of her thick coat right in front of the camera, proceeds to strip, tantalisingly, one item of clothing after another – before cutting to the bathroom, where the camera hovers by her buttocks, as she leans forward to turn on the shower. There was no possible reason for this, other than the fact that for most of the next hour and a half, one of the sexiest women in the business would be covered from head to toe in a thick coat with a furry hood.
From the director who broad us Swordfish and Gone in Sixty Seconds, you’d have expected something that was tight, taut, exciting and at the very least visually interesting, but it’s rather dull, plodding and most of the time, we’re treated to little more than close-ups of our heavily clad heroes chasing each other across the ice or down the dimly lit corridors of the giant tin-cans that make up their base.
And for many of the exterior scenes, the incoming storm means that you can’t really see who’s doing what anyway.
The plot itself is equally claustrophobic, with a finite number of characters meaning that the baddie is among the group, but you just don’t know who – but it’s so clichéd, with every available character being – in turn – sweet, honest, shady and creepy, so there’s no point trying to work out who dunnit, because they could just flip it in any direction they fancy later anyway – not least because the motivation of the characters and their backstories are at best clunky and at worst incoherent.
So there’s no point thinking about the plot, as you won’t believe or accept what happens anyway, and the visuals aren’t generally interesting enough to make up for it.
Perhaps the biggest surprise about this film is that it comes to us courtesy of Optimum – one of the most highly respected distributors in the UK, more used to delivering the kind of Oscar-winning fare that delights the critics.
But Whiteout is a wipe out.

opens nationwide 11th September 2009

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