"Whiteout": a film review

*Spoiler Alert!*

I just came from a special advanced screening of the film “Whiteout” starring Kate Beckinsale, Gabriel Macht, and Tom Skerritt. (Don’t know who the last two are and frankly, I don’t care.)

The first time I heard that my Mom got tickets, I was like, “Beckinsale’s making a film about office supplies?*”

Turns out, if you want to waste your money, just go ahead and buy yourself 12 bottles of Whiteout (the office supply), because you’ll get more satisfaction that way.

*Whiteout is that liquid white ink you use to erase errant pen marks. Just if you didn’t get the joke.

Let me expound.

As many thriller-action-drama movies go, the film starts with a plane crash. Caused by a shootout inside a plane between some Russians, presumably during the Cold War. To get you interested, one of the pilots is seen repeatedly glancing furtively at a chained metal box in the cargo hold. What’s inside it? TEN-TEN-DEEENNNNNNN!!!!

Zoom forward into the life of US Marshal Carrie Stetko (was the sort of Ural Russian last name part of the plotline? Don’t know).

She is bored out of her skull 2 years into the job at a US research center in Antarctica (helpfully defined in a subtitle as the coldest most isolated part of the planet) and desperately wants to leave.

To get you interested, Stetko strips down and takes a nice hot shower barely 3 minutes after you figure out she’s the lead character.

She’s said her goodbyes to old friends and love interests gone awry and will leave in 2 days, but for a last assignment. She and her team find a dead body in the middle of the snow, far out of camp, badly battered and sporting sinister injuries. What was the body doing out there and why did he die? TEN-TEN-DEEEENNN!!!

The first key mysteries would have been good enough to keep the audience interested, but the film just really fell apart after that. There were too many loose ends and random, ineptly-introduced plot points that made you go, “What the fuck?”

Here are some of the What the Fucks:

  • Alright, I just had to say this, but Kate Beckinsale, why is your brown snow suit so thin and flimsy? Is it to keep the semblance of your womanly figure amid the more reasonably clothed extras? Is that it? Because it’s -129 degrees out and I was so surprised why you didn’t fall over and die when you first went into the snow. Ohhhh, I see, it’s the hot showers you take. I see, that’s probably it.
  • Why was there nobody in the Vostok base? Yeah, okay, one of the geologists called you there, sounding hurried and scared on the phone, so you just had to go there Kate, to investigate. But the moment you come in, no one welcomes you? Sure, it may be abandoned. But why would a geologist who is fearing for his life seek refuge (and a long one too, given his throat was cut while sleeping on a couch with snacks scattered all around) seek refuge in an abandoned camp? Did the Ph.D. not work out in the common sense area?
  • And then Kate gets attacked by a man in a black snowsuit with a pick-axe. Who has a recurring role and shows up at random too. Riiiiight. I know what you did last summer.

  • After she loses her gloves, wounds her fingers, and regains consciousness; enter the U.N. guy. Who was sent by his office to investigate the case of the 2 murdered geologists. He just shows up, people. Out of the blue. Casting suspicion on this character is crucial to widen the field of suspects and heighten the element of risk that Katie can’t trust those around her. But really. How did United Nations guy get there to the Vostok base, calmly sifting through documents while a geologist with a slit throat lies on the couch in front of him? HOW???
  • U.N. guy’s really bland (blonde) too. We learn he is an ex-military man who found an open U.N. post. He likes to open his shirt and stare deeeeeeep into Kate’s eyes when he’s talking, plus he saved their lives when they got stuck in the snow inside the remains of the fallen Russian plane. Blow up the emergency hatch? Nice thinking, doc. Other than that, he could have been shrubbery, what with his wooden acting. My favorite part was when they were in the stalled snowmobile after they escaped from the Russian plane. Delphi (the black guy pilot, probably the only black man on base. Representation?) brings out a bottle of vodka he swiped from the plane. U.N. guy goes, “Don’t (drink that), it’ll lower your core temperature.” Delphi takes a swig anyway. U.N. guy, still looking stern, says, “Oh all right” and takes some vodka. To lower his core temperature. I love it.
  • Awwww, Kate has a sad back story. 😦The flashbacks show up in increments, so you really don’t know until the end of the movie what the real dish was, back when she was a cop in Miami. Is it worth finding out? Let’s see. She and her partner bust a bad guy and bring him to a hotel room (??), chain the bad guy to a bedpost, and take naps. Kate wakes up, sees the bad guy is gone, and her first response is to……. go to the bathroom and wash her face. The criminal grabs her hair and smashes her face into the mirror, because she’s such a lame cop. She successfully fends him off. She finds out that her partner betrayed her (*sniff*) and had actually been paid off to let the criminal get loose and kill her. She shoots her partner and he falls out the window. This is why she went to Antarctica, to get away from the disillusionment and the high crime rate in Miami. Oh Katie, with your bedroom eyes and washboard abs, you could have gone to Ohio. What a shallow back-story.

  • Why must you lose your fingers Kate? I know you lost your gloves and you made the mistake of holding on to a metal bar as you were escaping from pick-axe guy in the subzero temperatures. And I know your digits turned black and Doc had to amputate them — while you have this inane conversation about going home. But I just don’t get why this had to be included in some 5 to 7 minutes of the movie. Is it to add to your already (shallow) bucket of pain? Call me, Kate, and explain. I know your index finger’s still attached.
  • We know the meaning of Whiteout, because Doc explained it early on. It’s really thick snowstorms where you can’t see 6 inches in front of your face. But that weird little tussle in the snow as they were chasing after the minor bad guy pilot? Weird. My Mom, who is sharp as a tack and can rattle out each of the Camdens’ names from 7th heaven, actually had to ask me how many were involved in the fight scene. Because it was so messy.
  • The last surviving geologist, who knows the truth and is utterly disturbed, visits Kate at the research center. He just popped in there for a chat, and then ran away at the sound of Doc’s voice (we know why later). What I found weird was, all these men at the research center, seeing Kate in hot pursuit and screaming “Stop him, stop that man!!”, don’t even look at the action, don’t stop in their tracks or help out, no nothing. Heck, Kung Fu movies do better than this.
  • Oh… he was the bad guy? We find out at the end that it was Kate’s best friend at the research center, the kindly old Doctor, who was having the geologists killed because they found what was in the canister inside the Russian plane that crashed at the beginning of the movie. It was diamonds. He replaced the original Russian canisters with jellybeans then he sewed up the diamonds into the dead geologists’ bodies (because he’s so good at stitching wounds up, including those from Kate’s severed fingers). Asked why he did it, the doctor said: “What have I done? Stuck here all the time *grumble grumble* It’s to pay back what they took away from me!!” Ummm… he wasn’t really disgruntled at ANY PART of the movie except this one, so the twist is pretty awkward. It wasn’t established that he was greedy, and his excuse was just plain lame. Kate, good girl Kate, tells him sadly that she must turn him in. Doc accepts, and with a glass of whiskey in his hand and a thin dinner shirt on his back, he steps out into the blizzard to watch the Aurora Borealis. That was probably the most poetic suicide I have ever seen. See? He didn’t even FIGHT for those damn diamonds!
  • At this point, you may be wondering about the stupid plane crash at the beginning. We know the gunfight between those ruddy Russians at the cargo hold and the Russian pilots was because of precious diamonds. But… who were the ruddy Russians? And why kill them? Who were the pilots? Why did they shoot at the ruddy Russians after sharing a bottle of vodka? Hmmm? That’s a 50-year-old mystery kept hanging.

There is a happy ending. Kate decides to stay in Antarctica, because she has found that police work is not so bad after all.

But my dear sweet Kate Beckinsale, your pretty face staring at the first shot of sun (after a presumably long winter) is not enough to compensate for about an hour and 20 minutes worth of Whiteout.


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