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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
The Long Winter
by Adam Hakari

While I don't expect every film to be a masterpiece, I always hope a modicum of entertainment will be included. Whiteout, the new Warner Bros. thriller, may not be a home run, but it doesn't strike out either. It simply walks viewers to the plate with as little effort as possible.   

Antarctica. Home of sub-zero temperatures, those adorable penguins, and enough snow to shame Minnesota. U.S. Marshal Carrie Stetko (Kate Beckinsale) is one of the few humans treading the icy continent, stationed at a remote research facility. But as our story begins, events come into play that force Carrie to delay her early retirement. A body has been discovered in the middle of nowhere, without a single clue in sight. The deeper Carrie digs, the more she learns that the death may have something to do with a Soviet plane said to have crashed in the area decades before. But Carrie hasn't long to put the pieces together, for not only is a maniac out to silence her, the storm of the century is on its way, bringing with it six months of perpetual nightfall.

Whiteout is one of several recent works adapted from a graphic novel, though the old adage of the book being better than the movie seems no less appropriate in these cases. Although I haven't read the source material, I can imagine it leaving an impression, at least in a visual sense. The desolate environment lends itself well to effective imagery, especially when coupled with a murder mystery. It's a novel concept, a whodunit set where the elements are an even greater threat than your friendly neighborhood psychopath. But despite these ideal conditions, Whiteout's tension never really comes to a boil. Perhaps it's because the film fails to convince you of its setting. It spends too much time shuttling the viewer from set to set and showing off some astonishingly bad CG, so the atmosphere doesn't get to soak in.

But the major problem with Whiteout involves its unremakable story. The trailers suggest something supernatural at play, but don't be fooled. It's no different than one of those boilerplate mystery novels or one of the bajillion crime dramas on TV. Whiteout appears competent (at least until the climax), but it's just not that interesting. Everything about it feels so routine, and as decent as the actors are, their performances lose some spark because of it. Beckinsale plays a more low-key heroine than she did in the Underworld movies, though a gratuitous shower scene preserves her sex appeal. She's not bad, but Carrie's background reads like the biography for every other movie cop of the last three decades. Filling out the cast are Gabriel Macht, Tom Skerritt, and Alex O'Loughlin, though no one's purpose transcends that of a red herring.

September has the reputation for releasing movies guaranteed to make as few cinematic waves as possible. Whiteout comes across as precisely that kind of flick, designed to keep multiplexes warm before the good stuff arrives for awards season. It should find an audience on DVD, but even then, the film's lack of a juicy hook may still leave some viewers out in the cold.

MY RATING: ** (out of ****)

(Released by Warner Bros. Pictures and rated "R" for violence, grisly images, brief strong language and some nudity.)

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