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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

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‘Whiteout’ worst snow job on film

Among films, the only trait more insufferable than explicit dreadfulness is the thinly veiled mediocrity of a filmmaker so unenthused by his task he forgets to disguise the clich?d cinematic formulas within his work. This aptly describes “Whiteout,” an Antarctic murder mystery from the mind of Dominic Sena (“Swordfish,” “Gone in Sixty Seconds”) that features the luscious curves of Kate Beckinsale (“Underworld” franchise).

The film is an exercise in complete lack of ambition. From the central plot to character interaction to even the usage of the foreboding climate itself, “Whiteout” fails to generate any amount of emotion, choreographing a promising setup but accidentally delivering too soon, due largely in part to its severe underestimation of viewers’ intelligence.

The film opens with a flashback to a Soviet patrol flight over Antarctica, during which a foiled theft results in an airborne gunfight and the loss of the plane along with its inscrutably precious cargo. Jumping forward half a century, American security marshal Carrie Stedko (Beckinsale) is sent to investigate a murder out on the ice, only to discover the remains of the Russian patrol and become embroiled in a conspiracy of conflicting interests, merciless blizzards and masked assailants wielding pickaxes.

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This intriguing premise is, of course, squandered by Sena’s refusal to leave anything to the audience’s imagination or intellect. Throughout all the scenes, characters take turns playing stand-in narrator, explaining the obvious meanings of various clues in a manner that, while not quite groan-worthy, eliminates any mental investment in the story for the viewer.

Worse, the lines are delivered in such emotionless monotone the script feels more akin to an audio book than a full-length motion picture, robbing the film of the narrative tension befitting of such a compact thriller. By the halfway point of the film, the details of the story progression are so over-explained the viewer is able to predict the story’s conclusion by scant knowledge of mystery film clich? alone. It’s a crime that solves itself.

If only the film’s protagonists were as quick on the draw. Having removed any mental obstacles in the storytelling of the film, the next 96 minutes are padded with earnest, yet, shallow attempts at the development of Stedko as a victim of sexual assault, though these flashbacks quickly lose their gravity as they are looped ad nauseam to gratuitously symbolize her trauma. Worse, these aspects of her character are never truly resolved and barely manifest beyond an aversion toward firearms and a stern confiding in her supporting cast — a collection of cardboard cutouts bearing the names and faces of various Hollywood actors.

In truth, the script simply doesn’t give the peripheral characters much to do beyond follow Stedko to various set pieces and behave in ways that may or may not implicate them as antagonists such as inexplicably sneaking behind her in mirrors, disappearing during action scenes, etc. Such antics, meant to mislead the audience, are unintentionally glaring when used and garner nothing but chemical indifference toward the less-than-colorful cast.

Even the exotic frozen climate, touted as a central theme in the trailers, serves little more purpose than to generate wind sounds into the camera and drown out character personalities under a veil of white foam peanuts, reducing Sena’s otherwise competent action choreography to stumbling chases between unrecognizable silhouettes bundled in fur and cloth. Though the arctic backdrop offers the potential of plot device — see “30 Days of Night” — “Whiteout” is cut from such bland cloth that setting is a nonfactor.

“Whiteout” is a dance choreographed to the most tired of routines — a faithful one, to be fair, but one that will have viewers eying their watches in anticipation of a cinematically foregone conclusion.

1 1/2 stars out of 5.

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