Whiteout (UK - BD RB)
Just as the snow melts Marcus puts on his woolly hat and goes back out there...
Antarctica: the coldest, most isolated land mass on the planet. U.S. Deputy Marshal Carrie Stetko (Kate Beckinsale) is getting ready to go back to civilisation again after spending two years sorting out the minor crimes in her snow covered region. That is until a body is found under mysterious circumstances.
Now, racing against time before winter sets in and the dreaded ‘whiteout’ hits the area (whiteout being ‘an unholy set of weather conditions that converge and the world falls away’). Stetko’s investigation leads her down an icy path that she has to see through to the end.
For the first forty minutes or so, I was actually quite surprised how much I was warming to Whiteout. After the pretty clichéd opening shootout to set the story up, we’re presented with an Antarctic base full of characters that are actually quite pleasant to be around. Tom Skerritt, who plays the base's doctor, is always great to see in a movie and brings a lot to a fairly typical character, and Beckinsale’s Stetko is a little bland as a lead but it works for the movie. The basic nature of these characters and the fairly loose directorial approach to introducing us to the life at the base was a little easier to swallow than most of the thrillers out there and when the dead body in the snow is found and the story really begins, I found myself actually pretty invested for the rest of the ride.
Sadly, somewhere around the forty minute mark my attention slipped a little. It could have been the moment I realised this wasn’t going to go anywhere out of the ordinary or that crime solving in the snow isn’t always that exciting. As an example the first big thriller moment in which Beckinsale is chased by a masked snow axe wielding murderer was all going well enough, that is until they go outside and because of the heavy snow they have to attach themselves to a line between two buildings in order not to lose their way. Health and safety wise that all makes sense, but seeing two characters trudge through the snow isn’t exactly exciting and when the only thing slowing down our heroine and indeed our enraged killer is connecting and disconnecting their link to the line, it really started to come across as goofy as opposed to exciting.
As the story moves along and we go through all of the expected snow induced moments (trapped under the snow, big blizzard coming, freezing to death etc.) the possibilities the story had continue to slip away and we’re left with a series of whodunit moments and strong reliance on the audience doubting everyone around Beckinsale. This all comes to a head with a face off with a bad guy in the heart of the whiteout. This combines a large amount of not really knowing what's going on in amongst the heavy snow and not really getting how the wind is strong enough to blow them for miles if they are lying down in the snow but at the same time it’s not strong enough to affect them that much when they are standing up.
Whiteout ends up being pretty much a straight down the line thriller with a snowy backdrop. Its simplicity works, but it doesn’t really do anything to get excited about, making for a good watch once romp but very little else.
With vast white nothingness as the main backdrop, the clean transfer does well looking crisp, sharp and pleasing to the eye. Admittedly this clean image can also go against the transfer a little, with many of the effects shots or colour manipulations looking a little too obvious/fake in places but of course this isn’t really the transfer's fault.
Inside the Antarctic bases the cool blue, green and mustard yellow sets all look sharp and bright and while textures and small details aren’t always that noticeable, the well lit characters that reside in the rooms can look pretty damn great (but then saying that, when doesn’t Beckinsale look great?). Skin tones are pretty natural, even if the lighting on faces is pretty heavy and the textures stay pretty hidden but small details like Tom Skerritt’s beard and the marks on the frozen dead bodies are captured well in 1080p HD.
The only difficult element that’s hard to sum up here is the whiteout snow storm moments. The screen is so full of the white stuff it’s hard to tell if the HD is doing its job or if I was watching a VHS. I’d actually be interested in weighing it up against a standard definition version to see what difference HD makes to this sort of visual chaos but once again the only shortcoming here is filmmaking techniques as opposed to the actual transfer itself.
Whiteout comes with a strong, fairly dynamic DTS-HD Master Audio track. The strings within the score are immediately impressive with a lot of range and a whole lot of oomph behind them. The opening shoot out on the plane has some booming gun blasts and a whole lot going on in the surrounds and for the most part the movie never has a quiet moment after that.
There’s always the incidental score hovering around the room to keep things moving along and dialogue sits comfortable in the front speakers creating a pretty constant use of all five speakers. Of course the ‘whiteout’ comes with its own attack on the senses. There’s plenty of howls and roars and sweeping, screeching blankets of snow (wow sounds like Hampshire over the last couple of weeks), creating an effective presence for the largely under used background of the movie.
The only real negative point I found with the track was that in the closing scenes the whiteout sound effects seemed to dip in and out of effectiveness. I can’t quite work out if this an intentional part of showing off the extreme weather or if it was literally a sloppy way of letting us hear the characters grunts and groans as they battle each other and the elements. Either way it was a weird sensation in what is for the most part a pretty good audio track.
‘Whiteout: The Coldest Thriller Ever' (12:02 HD) has the cast in their arctic wear freezing their toes off whilst filming in Canada. This shows off the extreme vastness of the shooting locations and at the same time, just how much they manipulated the visuals to boost the movie's effects. The making of footage looks typically white with the only colour being the blue sky, whereas cutting to and from the movie, the skyline and general colouring is almost a world away from the actual shooting location. Beyond that, there’s plenty of cast and crew talking head comments about making the flick and all in all this is twelve minutes of everyone involved using terms like “it’s white, it’s vast, I didn’t guess how cold it would be and you can die in this sort of weather”.
‘Whiteout: From Page to Screen’ (12:04 HD) shows the comic book creators (yes, this is based on a comic book) commenting on how good it is too see their story realised on film. The background to how the story was written and how it developed is covered and generally it’s good to see the creators' glee in seeing their work come this far.
Lastly there are deleted scenes (04:11 HD) which are little more than a few more filler base moments and the trailer (02:02 HD).
Whiteout is a very typical, very straightforward, but generally entertaining thriller. It hints at bigger things but never really goes there and has a cast that don’t play it bigger than is required for this sort of thing. I’d be surprised if I was ever inclined to watch it again but as a watch once, it kept me onboard for most of its one hundred minute run time.
The disc itself has a great transfer and a fairly impressive audio track and while the extras aren’t exactly meaty, there’s just about the right amount that they don’t outstay their welcome. Whiteout’s definitely worth a watch but once again, the underused Kate Beckinsale turns up in a movie that will probably end up disappearing in the snow.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 25th January 2010
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, Stereo LPCM 2.0 English
Extras: Featurettes, Deleted Scenes, Trailer
Easter Egg: No
Director: Dominic Sena
Cast: Kate Beckinsale, Tom Skerritt, Gabriel Macht
Genre: Crime, Drama and Thriller
Length: 100 minutes
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