Whiteout (2009)
By: J.R. McNamara on October 17, 2010  | 
Warner Home Video | Region B | 2.35:1, 1080p | English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 | 101 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Dominic Sena
Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Gabriel Macht, Tom Skerritt, Columbus Short, Alex O'Loughlin
Screenplay: Jon Hoeber, Erich Hoeber, Carey W. Hayes, Chad Hayes
Country: USA
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Based on the popular 1999 comic written by Greg Rucka and illustrated by Steve Leiber, Whiteout starts in 1957 with a Russian transport plane crash-landing in the snow after a gunfight between the co-pilot and the security team who were responsible for guarding 'something' results in the pilot getting his brains blown out.

Flash forward to now, and we are introduced to US Federal Marshall Carrie Stetko (Kate Beckinsale) who, after a disastrous experience with a traitorous partner, has spent the past two years working at a research station in a part of Antarctica that becomes so cold during winter that planes aren't allowed in or out for three months, forcing the majority of workers to leave for that period. Stetko herself is also preparing to leave, for the last time, after deciding to quit her position as 'town sheriff', but her final days are marred by what appears to be a body seen by a pilot in a fairly remote part of the area, which she has to investigate.

Grabing the Station's doctor (Tom Skerrit) they, along with pilot Delfy (Columbus Short) fly out to the area where the body was spotted, and what they find is not an accident victim, but the corpse of one who has been... murdered!

So the story begins, and we have Stetko trying to solve a murder in one of the most godforsaken parts of the world in only a few days, and when the mystery ties-in with the aforementioned crashed plane, and a case of gangrene sets in, she has her work cut out for her.

Directed by Dominic Sena (who also helmed the Nic Cage vehicle Gone in 60 Seconds and the Travolta/Jackman thief gumbo Swordfish) the film appears to be quality at a glance, but somewhere along the line things just don't click. There is nothing wrong with the acting, the story is a fine murder mystery, and Sena's direction is slick, but with its motley assortment of thriller, horror and action elements it is rarely compelling.

Possibly this is because it has all been done before, and the film doesn't really bring anything new to the table. Essentially we have a Wild West sheriff attempting to solve a Holmesian mystery on the set of John Carpenter's The Thing.

I suspect the producers were dazzled by the visuals of the comic and overlooked the fact that it was a fairly average story, and when those clever drawn visuals were removed the narrative just couldn't hold its own on film. Think of it this way: would the film Sin City have been so clever if they had made a straight up colour film adaptation, or would it have been a collection of fairly generic noir (without the noir) stories? I love that film, but am well aware that a good percentage of my affection for it comes from the comic style visuals.
The film is presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio, and while the sharpness is a little inconsistent by Blu-ray standards it's still an excellent, if not groundbreaking high definition viewing experience.
The audio on this disc is presented in Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and sounds fantastic, with the violent arctic snowstorms keeping the rear speakers busy.
Extra Features
Whiteout: The Coldest Thriller Ever is a traditional 'making of' documentary. It shows behind the scenes footage and has interviews with various cast and crew. Work-a-day DVD and BD extra stuff.

Whiteout: From Page To Film is a look at this process of writing and drawing the comic, and how it was adapted to the screen. There are some good insights into how an adaptation can work, or not work.

Deleted Scenes: At about 4 minutes you can see that these deleted scenes don't really show too much extra, though they show both an appearance by writer Greg Rucka, and a look at just how mundane Carrie's regular duties are.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
It has all the elements of a great thriller, a hostile setting, and a pretty good cast to boot, but somehow, tragically, it falls flat. The original comic spawned a sequel, Whiteout: Melt, which earned an Eisner Award in 2000 for Best Limited Series, and a third series Whiteout: Thaw is yet to be published. Poor box-office takings and a lukewarm response from fans and critics suggests Whiteout's film adaptation will not be as productive.

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