WHITEOUT - 2009
USA Release: Sept. 11, 2009
Warner Bros. Pictures, Dark Castle Entertainment
Rated: Australia: MA / Canada: 14A / Ireland: 15A / Singapore: NC-16 / UK: 15 / USA: R
It's the late 1950s. The Cold War began in earnest under President Dwight D. Eisenhower, a battle weary WWII vet, who was willing to do nearly anything not to go to, or even provoke, another war. Once the Soviets realized this, they went out of their way to do all they could to provoke a war, just to see how far they could push and how much they could gain. After all, the U.S. at this time was considered the #1 world power, and having a Democracy at #1 doesn't do a lot to promote Communism at #2.
A Soviet plane flies across the Antarctic, near the South Pole, at night. And because this is the Antarctic, by night I mean six months worth of black skies and fierce storms.
The copilot cryptically says to the pilot that he might as well get this over with. He goes to the back of the plane, and as dramatically as possible, starts a vicious shoot-out with a bunch of guys, loaded with various guns and weapons, who really seem put off by the betrayal.
This starts a serious WTF? moment. They just took off from the Antarctic. Clearly the pilots knew these guys were well armed and he only brought a single action pistol. Against automatic weapons. And instead of just leaving them to freeze to death, he thought that, thousands of feet up and thousands miles from anywhere, over the South Pole, in the deadest of dead nights, in a thin hulled plane, now was the very BEST time and place to start a Shoot-Out?!?
To no one in the audience's surprise, the plane crashes. Well duh!
The thought in everyone's mind now is, what made these guys so damn stupid? Because even in the 1950s, stupid people generally weren't sent to the middle of the Antarctic (not saying it's a bad idea, but we don't do that).
Now in the present we meet Carrie Stetko (Kate Beckinsale: UNDERWORLD [all]), Antarctica's only U.S. Marshall, setting down at a remote substation. A party is about to happen there. She meets up with her old friend, kindly Doctor John Fury (Tom Skerrit: THE DEVIL'S RAIN, ALIEN). She has a kinda sorta flashback or memory of something, and the next thing we know, she is up in a plane with pilot, Delfy (Columbus Short: WAR OF THE WORLDS), and back down again investigating a body in the ice that had been seen from a passing plane. Not that there is a lot of air traffic across Antarctica.
When the body is brought back and identified, the very real possibility exists that the dead man could be Antarctica's first homicide. Night, however, is about to fall and the skeleton crew that is left behind will have to stay for the full six months of it. Doc offers to let the body be flown back to the states or at least a friendly neighboring country and let them handle it, but Carrie believes that this could be a crime that's easily solved. After all, every single person in Antarctica is easily tracked and ID' d. The place is just too damn inhospitable and too damn remote for folks to come and go without notice. If this was a murder instead of an accident, then she'll find out who did it pretty damn quick.
Then Carrie gets a call from another substation: a station that is supposed to be already abandoned for the upcoming night. The guy there, McGuire (Arthur Holden: HEAVY METAL 2000, THE SUM OF ALL FEARS), tells Carrie that he knows what is going on and he will tell her, but first she has to come to him. And she has to come alone!
So she does!
WTF? Now the movie has already established that there are a fixed number of people living and moving in and out of Antarctica - and every one of them is known and registered.
Moreover, the movie also established that the weather is kicking up as 6 months of nightfall approaches.
Finally, it has repeated Several Times Over that some folks tend to go crazy out here.
The only unknown, but certainly the biggest unknown, is Who Is The Murderer?
It's clear she could be walking into a trap.
It's clear she could be jeopardizing the life of her pilot.
It's clear that, though McGuire could never get away with his crime should he choose to murder them, he might be too snowbound crazy to care (that and he'll have a fueled up plane to get him off the ice and at least to Argentina.) It makes no sense for her to go, especially alone, but that's what she does.
It was at this point that the audience released the first of many groans.
Merry Mishaps occur to absolutely no one's surprise and with that came the second of many groans. WHITEOUT becomes a masked-slasher movie. Yes, in the middle of the coldest place on earth, in the frozen wastes, night time mere hours away, a slasher is running amuck Across the millons of square miles of stormy windswept mountainous frozen wastelands in the heart of Antarctica.
Now trust me when I say that I'm no expert on Antarctica. I've no idea how they really play it there, have it set up there, and what infrastructure they use to try and track and keep safe the very small handful of people who go there*. But I do know the logic that the movie laid out. Not one plane flies in or out but that pretty much everyone on the continent knows it, because there is so little air traffic that you only have a small handful flying inbound at any given time.
But yes, Antarctica does have a permanent population.
Welcome to the Chilean town of Villa Las Estrellas, in Antarctica. The largest of the International bases.
Greg Rucka and Steve Lieber's graphic novel won an Eisner, the comic book equivalent of an Oscar. So yeah, the book was way better than this movie.
Carrie severely damages her hand in her fight with the slasher and barely makes it back inside a cabin with her life. She has a severe hand injury, it's all bandaged up. There is nowhere for the slasher killer to go but now, even with one hand out of commission, she is going back
to the other isolated snow hut - again - to try and find the slasher.
? ? ?
With the slasher isolated and virtually imprisoned in the best, most reclusive jail on the planet, Delfy (Columbus Short: Steven Spielberg's WAR OF THE WORLDS, QUARANTINE), her airplane pilot (not quite alone), unbelievably chooses to go with Carrie back to the only other hut, instead of knocking her silly ass out and properly flying her back to the main camp for some much needed medical attention and maybe a psychiatric evaluation.
When they go back to the hut the second time, instead of a masked slasher they meet Robert Pryce (Gabriel Macht: THE SPIRIT). Robert flashes a plastic badge and says he's on a top secret mission for the UN.
How did he get there?
flew over and dropped him in.
How is it that Delfy never heard or tracked the only other plane?
Don't ask, because this movie won't answer.
How long has Robert been there?
Did he see a killer?
What killer? That's nonsense. And by the way, as a UN representative on a top secret mission, take my word for it, I'll need to commandeer your plane.
If you need a plane why did you leave the perfectly good plane that took you here?
Shut up and follow my orders.
We have a U.S. Marshall, now investigating the only TWO homicides ever committed in Antarctica. She is in bad need of medical attention thanks to her damaged hand caused by her own enormous stupidity and an anonymous slasher killer - Who Could Be Anyone (but especially a stranger with an unbelievable story). And! And! AND! Without calling someone to verify Robert's UN credentials they are going to let him call all the shots and go deeper into the Antarctic While the storm kicks up and nightfall approaches?
Because you know what would have happened to UN boy if Carrie and Delphy weren't there with their plane? He would have freaking froze to death!
This movie got so damn stupid I'm actually surprised that Lorenzo Lamas isn't in it (nice guy though he is but, damn! His movies!).
Based off of what must surely have been a superior graphic novel1 written by Greg Rucka and illustrated by Steve Lieber, this mess was written for the screen by the two screen writing teams of Jon & Erich Hoeber (their first script sale in over ten years) and twin brothers Chad and Carey Hayes (HOUSE OF WAX, THE REAPING).
Producer Susan Downey (GHOST SHIP, GOTHIKA, HOUSE OF WAX, THE REAPING, THE INVASION), must be awfully fond of the brothers Hayes seeing as how their scripts lost her so much money with HOUSE OF WAX and THE REAPING. This would be their third strike with her.
This would also be a third strike for Producer David Gambino (THE INVASION, THE BRAVE ONE), and of course, Producer Joel Silver (PREDATOR [all], TALES FROM THE CRYPT: DEMON KNIGHT, THE MATRIX [all], HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL, THIR13EN GHOSTS, GHOST SHIP, GOTHIKA, HOUSE OF WAX, V FOR VENDETTA, THE REAPING, THE INVASION, ORPHAN) who co-owns the Dark Castle company, and has enough past history to take several loser movies per year and still come out smelling like a rose.
Director Dominic Sena really didn't need another feature film catastrophe on his hands. Not after the back to back disasters of Gone in 60 Seconds and Swordfish. He really needs a hit with his upcoming SEASON OF THE WITCH, scheduled for 2010.
As if sitting through this farce wasn't bad enough, you keep expecting, hoping that the secret buried in that Soviet plane from 50 odd years ago will make this all worthwhile, right? In fact, UN boy hints about the horror that could be on that plane! There are many allusions as to what Could have May have been on that plane. But when we finally discover the secret as to what was REALLY on that plane, why there would be so much killing and craziness over it, I just sat there thinking, 'That's all? That's the big god damn deal? Are you freaking KIDDING ME?!?'
And Gabriel Macht, dude! I know this wasn't your fault. Doing a Joel Silver picture must have seemed like a good career move. But you're now 2 for 2 in box office flops that shamelessly butcher popular, Eisner winning graphic novels. If you get one more, the fans are going to notice and your name, as an actor, will be a derisive joke at comic book conventions. You'll be doing Asylum Pictures and Steven Seagal movies IF yer lucky! Careful man! Careful!
WHITEOUT gets 1 Shriek girl. Kill It before It Breeds!
This review copyright 2009 E.C.McMullen Jr.
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