Hollywood has been tapping the world of comic books for ideas for a while now, and unfortunately most of the time they’ve managed to pervert the original source material enough that about the only thing it resembles to its original material is its name. This time they’ve targeted Greg Rucka’s Whiteout mini-series, published in 1998 by Oni Press. Will they twist and turn it into something unfamiliar or will Director Dominic Sena actually stay true to the source material and make a movie that will actually be good? Important questions, but there’s no easy way to answer it. Is Whiteout bad? Definitely not, but is it good? Perhaps.
Set at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station in Antarctica, the film follows U.S. Marshall Carrie Stetko, played by Kate Beckinsale, as she prepares to leave the base for the coming winter months. Unfortunately reports of a dead body out on the arctic plains puts a wrinkle in her plans as she’s forced to investigate. Things go downhill for her as the autopsy reveals that they’re now involved in a homicide investigation. Making matters worse is the winter storm that’s headed straight for base, forcing the timetable of the bases evacuation up by a day.
With a killer at large, and time running out, Stetko is forced to team up with a newly arrived U.N. Detective Robert Pryce, played by Gabriel Macht. With the help of local pilot Delfy, played by Columbus Short, their investigation brings them on a hunt to recover some lost Russian items. All the while dealing with the bodies that have started piling up. There are a few twists and turns that keep you guessing, but for the most part audiences should be able to figure out the ending about three fourths of the way through.
One thing that stood out were Stetko’s flashbacks, and unfortunately for all the wrong reasons. It’s clear that Sena was trying to portray Stetko as a bit of a loner with trust issues, but it really didn’t come across that well. The flashbacks didn’t offer any plot movement, they only hindered the story. While it was nice that they tried to include some back story to Stetko, if they wanted them to be more powerful then they should have really explored them deeper like the graphic novel had. Only then would you have gotten a real sense of why Stetko was assigned to the South Pole and why she has the issues she does. Given that the movie is only an hour and a half long, an extra ten minutes or so wouldn’t have hurt the film, only made it better.
Perhaps my biggest gripe with Whiteout is the lack of characterization. There’s no connection to who these people are or why we should care about them. There’s little room for any emotional investment and it’s a shame because the original source material was full of it. Unfortunately that’s what happens when a book is translated to the big screen. Yet somehow I can’t let writers Jon and Erich Hoeber and Chad and Carey Hayes off that easily. It’s apparent that there were too many voices involved in creating the script, too many ideas of what to do with no definitive direction. The old expression of too many cooks spoil the broth is true here.
The acting can’t be faulted though; Beckinsale puts in a good effort as well as Tom Skerritt as the stations resident doctor. Alex O’Loughlin’s brief parts come across well as the psychotic pilot. Even Gabriel Macht puts forth a good performance. The cast worked well with what they had and it showed.
Overall though, while I may have some minor gripes Whiteout is a mostly entertaining film. Fans of the comic book will most likely find it somewhat disappointing, considering how much was left out or changed. If you’ve never read the comic though, it might come across a bit better. Still, for what it is it’s good. Just don’t expect something epic and you’ll be all set.