Movie News & Reviews

Generic writing could use some actual whiteout

Learn from my experience: being beautiful but dumb isn't everythingit's cracked up to be.

Yes, I'm ushered into all the Tri-Cities' most bumping clubs before Ican slow down, but sometimes I wish the girls would ask me about mythoughts on life or American politics (no complaints!) rather thanbeing so nervous to meet me they run away or accidentally spill theirdrinks in my face before I can finish saying "Hey, you're so sexy youmake Arwen look like Shelob."

Beauty fades, but what's in your mind lasts until the syphilis kicksin. This is the reason a movie like Whiteout needs somethinggoing on beneath its pretty surface: otherwise it's nice to look at,but not much fun to spend time with.

In Antarctica, an American base is starting to bunker down for thelong winter, and U.S. Marshal Kate Beckinsale is preparing to headback to the States for the first time in two years. Days before herdeparture, she gets a report of a body out on the ice.

She and doctor Tom Skerritt soon determine the death wasn't anaccident--it was Antarctica's first murder. With winter storms closingin, Beckinsale's investigation turns up evidence of a lethal struggleover a Soviet plane that crashed some fifty years ago carrying anunknown cargo.

The only way a movie's setting can get sweeter than Antarctica is ifit takes place on Bikini Atoll (they couldn't name it that if itweren't awesome) or on the ancient Antarctica where the penguins weretwice as big. When you can be killed just by stepping outside withoutwearing a coat stuffed with an entire flock's worth of goose down,every scene carries an extra layer of tension. Also all that snow andstuff looks really, really cool.

Whiteout makes good use of its cruel setting by putting itscharacters through the cold kind of hell at every opportunity. Plentyof action scenes have taken place on glaciers, snowfields, andiceworld Hoth, but I'm not sure I've ever seen a chase where it wouldtake a full minute for the chaser to close the forty feet of openground between him and the chasee. Their struggle against the elementsis so one-sided it often threatens to be funny instead of gripping.

So the Antarctica stuff's great. It's too bad, then, it's got so manydamn people in it. In dialogue and character, Whiteout isoffensively bland, as if it were written by a committee instead of aperson.

Ah yes, that's because it was. It took four writers to unsuccessfullyadapt their script from a graphic novel, including the braintrustbehind House of Wax and The Reaping. You'd imagine fourwriters would make four times as many great lines, but sinceWhiteout has zero, it appears the Stripper Theory ofScreenwriting once more holds true: get too many hands between thesheets (of paper, you pervert), and instead of having fun, you justend up confused and bored.

Generic writing could explain why all the acting except Skerritt's isso wooden Shaolin monks strike it to toughen their hands, but itdoesn't make sense of why director Dominic Sera can't handle a simpleflashback sequence without being hamfisted and intrusive.Whiteout's the kind of movie that gets much better when it'sput on TV: that way it's free, and you can ignore all the partswithout the killer snowstorms.

Grade: C