Thursday, 21 January 2010

DVD Review: Whiteout

A murder mystery at a desolate Antarctic location, with Kate Beckinsale; what's not to love?

I haven't read the graphic novel from which this film is adapted, but the movie doesn't do much for the reputation of graphic novel to screen adaptations. I enjoyed The Thing for many reasons but one of them was the sense of isolation. This is one of the few things that works in Whiteout, for me. A beginning sequence with dodgy CGI, that wouldn't look out of place in a TV show, introduces the idea that something very valuable is trapped in the ice in present day. An interesting shot of the landscape is shown along with the subtitle; "Antartica: The coldest, most inhospitable continent on the planet". Really? You think? This rubbish description, presumably aimed at pre-school viewers, sets the tone of the movie which is catering for those whose brain gets little or no exercise. To ensure that we understand that it is bloody freezing in this part of the world, we witness the lithesome Beckinsale strip out of all the layers of clothing she's wearing before we get a steamy glimpse of her showering through the misty shower door. Ok, we get it, she's a good looking woman wearing clothes fit for purpose.

Now, you might be reading this and wondering what the big deal is? Am I becoming too much of a modern man? Nope, I have no problem with watching Kate get her kit off, but for that I'd stick on The Haunting. The trouble is that there's a great scene not long after where Tom Skerrit's character, Dr John Fury, gives a very hands on example of what happens to people when you are exposed to the climate as he shows a group of newbies how they will be effected. He briefs them outside, not allowing them to put on their coats and illustrates what exposure can do.

Character development is not a priority in this film and this is why I feel that having "Based on the graphic novel..." in the credits destroys the good work that The Dark Knight did in convincing the great unwashed that you can have a decent "comic book" film with rich characters.

Exposition scenes are handled terribly. Beckinsale's character is supposed to be a US Marshall, presumably trained well. She can handle a weapon, we are shown this. When she boards the crashed plane, buried in the snow, she asks her companions some odd questions that I would expect a cop to figure out by herself. Then, as if using some supernatural sense, is able to visualise the incidents that led up to the plane crash with amazing clarity and efficiency. Had this been based on a super-hero book, I'd understand. Simply, it's clear that the writers are using Exposition Techniques 101 to get the story forward. Poor.

To explain too much of the plot will reduce the reasons to watch the movie. What the film does do right is hide who the antagonist is. By the revelation, I had become fatigued by all the superificiality of it. It's a pity because I liked the chase sequence (outside of the base) at the end, something they might have considered in the The Thing if the movie had more budget.
I believe that the director, Dominic Sena, has a great movie to be made somewhere along the line. Technically, he's very good and this has been evident in Swordfish. Maybe there had been some studio tampering with this movie. Certainly, Swordfish (although flawed) is a very competent action thriller. Gone in 60 Seconds was okay. Perhaps his latest, to be released, Season of the Witch will be the one.

Maybe, the casual film viewer will get a kick out of this. The hardened movie watcher might want to think twice before sticking the disc in the player. It reminds me of X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Stupid, but watchable. There are no adamantium bullets in Whiteout though.

Wayfarer Scores this movie at 4/10.

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