It’s not difficult to spot ice-schlocky when it smacks you in the face from the getgo. In this alleged thriller, we’re introduced to the heroine, U.S. Marshall Carrie Stetko (Kate Beckinsale), as she strips naked and takes a long, sexy relaxing shower – with puffs of steam obscuring strategic sections of her anatomy.
She’s on Antarctica’s Amundsen-Scott Base with her avuncular buddy, Dr. John Fury (Tom Skerritt), and they’re both eagerly anticipating leaving the frozen tundra when a geologist is found murdered, leading them to Vostok, a smaller, more remote Russian base. By now, Carrie’s now sensibly clothed in a thick parka that’s perfect for snowmobiling.
Meanwhile, there’s one flashback to 1957 in the Cold War era, when vodka-swilling Russians on a Soviet plane get caught in the cross-fire when the copilot tries to eliminate the passengers; the plane crashes at the South Pole with cargo but no survivors. A second flashback transports Carrie to a time in Miami when she lost her confidence on a mission involving another kind of snow and developed serious trust issues.
By then, U.N. investigator Robert Pryce (Gabriel Macht) has shown up, the clock’s ticking down 72 hours before a storm closes in, plunging the continent into six months of utter darkness. So whodunit? By process of elimination, guessing the culprit isn’t difficult, just tedious. At least Carrie’s clad in a thick parka when she’s pursued by a pickax-toting killer during a blizzard.
Based on a graphic novel by Greg Rucka and Steve Lieber, the script was written by two sets of brothers: Jon and Erich Hoeber and Chad and Carey W. Hayes. Combine the ideas of these four screenwriters and you get implausible drivel. So to stir up some drama, director Dominic Sena (“Swordfish”) augments the jerky, hand-held photography with flashing, often un-focused images that only increase the confusion. To his credit, however, cinematographer Chris Soos makes Manitoba and Quebec look like the South Pole’s magnificent yet menacing desolation. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Whiteout” is an icy, idiotic 3. It’s a wipeout.