In 1998, a comic book by Greg Rucka and Steve Lieber garnered a cult following. It dealt with the harrowing experiences of a U.S. Marshal named Carrie Stetko who investigated a series of mysterious murders.
But what made “Whiteout” unique was its setting. Not only did Stetko have to deal with cold-blooded killers, she had to contend with cold. Her territory was an outpost in Antarctica.
The movie version stars Kate Beckinsale (“Underworld”) as Stetko and things get tricky for her when a dead body is discovered on a remote tract of ice. A big storm is approaching and she only has three days before the entire outpost has to be abandoned for the long Antarctic winter.
Stetko is on the remote location because of an incident that occurred while she was working as an undercover drug agent in Miami. She’s still disturbed by images of the Miami episode and it was thought that an assignment in a remote spot like Antarctica would be good for her.
Among her friends are a doctor named John Fury (Tom Skerritt from TV’s “Brothers and Sisters”) and a pilot named Delfy (Kansas City’s own Columbus Short). When the bodies start to multiply, she relies on their support.
Robert Pryce (Gabriel Macht from “The Spirit”), a U.N. operative, soon arrives on the scene and horns in on Stetko’s investigation. It doesn’t take them long to figure out that these murders have something to do with a downed plane from the former U.S.S.R. that crashed in Antarctica decades earlier. Someone on the base wants the illicit cargo that the plane was carrying.
The movie’s exciting opening sequence depicts the events that brought down the Russian plane. The only downside of this exciting scene, skillfully directed by Dominic Sena (“Swordfish”), is that it’s all too evident that most of it was computer generated.
Unfortunately, the rest of the movie has a herky-jerky pace. Sena mounts the individual scenes fairly well, but the movie lacks a satisfying dramatic arc.
The stunning Beckinsale makes an attractive lead and the picture’s production values are solid.
But the only thing that really distinguishes “Whiteout” from a hundred other murder mysteries is its setting. The Antarctic becomes a pivotal character and the harsh elements provide additional conflict to the narrative.
It’s too bad that the casting makes the bad guy’s identity all too evident.
“Whiteout” is routine, but it’s setting turns it into a bone-chilling thriller. (R) Rating: **1/2
* Avoid at all costs
** Only if you're bored
*** Good movie
**** Well worth your time
***** Be sure to see it