Mr. Movie

'Whiteout' ruins a night out

Two hours. No sentences. No paragraphs.

Sometimes movies are so poorly written, filmed, directed and acted that a critic doesn’t know where to start a review. Reams of notes taken at a screening or even discussion with others after a screening can’t jump start the creative juices. A desperation sets in as the time spent staring at a blank computer screen hits two hours.

The realization of complete paralyzation hits home when I’ve produced just one line: can you trust me enough to believe that movies such as Whiteout are so bad that they aren’t worth the energy necessary to tell you why?

Note to myself: a one-line review isn’t going to satisfy your editor.

Another note to myself: not doing a review isn’t fair to your readers or to the creators (dare we call them creators?) of Whiteout. Fair or not, I must issue a fair warning. The movie will no doubt be close to the top of my worst of 2009 list — if not all the way at the top.

A third note to myself: you wasted more than two hours to see this movie. Write something, dammit.

Two paragraphs. Three notes to myself. Two hours and 10 minutes.

Whiteout is a murder mystery set in Antarctica. It begins with a shootout on a plane from the Soviet Union flying over the continent in 1958. Everyone dies. You aren’t told why but know it is important to the plot or it wouldn’t be there.

Fast-forward to present day.

Kate Beckinsale is Carrie Stetko, a U.S. Marshall stationed at a base in Antarctica. She can’t marshall up the energy to keep marshaling, has resigned and will soon head home. Then someone finds a body on a place in the ice where no bodies should be. While investigating at the site that houses the scientist and his also-murdered colleagues, a crazed criminal with an axe tries to kill her. She loses her gloves and gets terrible frost bite.

The fingers are snipped off later by the station’s doctor with a loud, “eew” eliciting — CLICK. Whiteout is so lame it’s the only real memorable scene.

Six paragraphs and change. Three hours.

Stetko’s doctor friend does the snipping and is played by veteran character actor Tom Skerritt (TV’s Picket Fences and the original Alien). He’s her best friend and voice of reason.

Note to myself: I still like Tom Skerritt.

The plot — now just about as interesting as reading the label of the liquid paper known as White Out — supposedly kicks into high gear. Stetko revisits the murder scene and connects with a United Nations investigator. You’re supposed to be suspicious that he might be the killer.

What passes for a mystery ramps up a couple of notches when Stetko accidentally falls into a deep hole and finds the airplane. By this point the only real mystery is why you bought the super-hype from the TV commercials pushing this piece of crap and shelled out $10 to see it.

Nine paragraphs. One note to myself. Three plot section rewrites. Three hours and 30 minutes.

Whiteout is based on a highly acclaimed graphic novel by Portland's Greg Rucka and Steve Lieber. Graphic novels and their comic-book cousins use panels to tell their stories. The artwork is two-dimensional.

It is ironic that their graphic novel is praised as having rich, deep, multi-dimensional characters. The characters in the movie based on the novel and story never get beyond one dimension, and the film moves at the pace of an Antarctic glacier.

On second thought, the glacier moves faster.

Twelve paragraphs. Many rewrites and lots of tweaking. Four hours.


Mr. Movie rating: 1 star

Rated R for mature themes, violence, language. It opens Friday, Sept. 11 at Regal’s Columbia Mall 8 and at the Fairchild Cinemas 12.

5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen

4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.

3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video.

2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.

0 stars: Speaks for itself.