Rated R for violence, grisly images, brief strong language and some nudity, 96 minutes
Beckinsale is hot, but the thriller "Whiteout" lacks chills
The new action thriller "Whiteout" is set in the frosty climate of the South Pole, but it's lacking in any genuine chills, thrills or surprises. Other than the beautiful Kate Beckinsale and lots of pretty (but windy) snow, this stale, predictable offers anything revealing in the way of murder mysteries except for maybe the sub zero temperatures.
U.S. marshal Carrie Stetko ("Underworld's" Kate Beckinsale), the only one assigned to Antarctica, must investigate a murder there within three days before the Antarctic winter begins and she leaves her post. She crosses paths with a U.N. operative (Gabriel Macht), also investigating the murder. She must chase down suspects in sub zero temperatures and polar ice to solve the murders, facing challenges along the way, including the loss of two fingers. Little does she know that the murderer is closer to her than she thinks.
"Whiteout" is a well-cast, handsomely shot murder mystery that lacks suspense and a genuine sense of entanglement. Directed very flatly and unoriginally by Dominic Sena of the Travolta thriller "Swordfish," this is actually based on a series of late 1990's graphic novels of the same name and character. The frigid setting - a polar continent - is indeed a refreshing one away from the city lights of L.A. or the Big Apple, but the director doesn't use the unique setting well or very realistically, given that the handsome cast spend much of their time outside with little to cover their face (which wouldn't help, it's still hard to tell who's who in the blizzard-esque climax).
"Whiteout's" shallow, contrived script doesn't really do much of anything in the way of developing a backstory for the lead character, except that she chose - yes, chose - the South Pole as a means of escaping one terrible event in her life. Beckinsale is pretty eye candy for sure, though why anyone as pretty as she would actually choose to be in such a desolate place as this. She and Macht (of last year's unspirited version of "The Spirit") make for a decent team, but by the time they figure out everything it won't come as any surprise, given that there’s not many people left in such an empty place.
Especially wasted are some talented actors, especially the miscast veteran character actor Tom Skerritt (seen recently on the TV show "Brothers and Sisters"), who's way too old for this thing, along with two other TV actors, the charming Columbus Short, and the ruggedly handsome Alex O'Laughlin, both in considerably underwritten roles. At least you can find comfort in the fact that Beckinsale still looks quite attractive getting a couple of fingers chopped off.
The finale of "Whiteout" is especially disappointing and unsatisfying given that so much could've been done with the climate and the bad guys just seem fade away in the snow drifts. At least other icy thrillers “The Thing” and “The Shining” had something else going for them - a nasty creature and Jack Nicholson (is there really a difference?) to keep things interesting, something that “Whiteout” really needs.
Beckinsale is hot, but you'll be much more satisfied by a big bowl of ice cream than this stale late summer thriller.