Her peaceful bliss is shattered, however, when someone spots a body on the ice. Heading out to investigate with pilot Delfy (Columbus Short), Carrie finds the remains of a geologist nowhere near where he was supposed to be. She takes the body back to the base for Doc Fury (Tom Skerritt) to autopsy, and it becomes apparent that this was no boating accident. The scientist was murdered.
Carrie's investigation leads her from witness to witness and into a face-to-face encounter with the killer -- or rather, face to mask, as the culprit is clad from head to toe in snow garb. She's soon joined by Robert Pryce (Gabriel Macht), a United Nations representative seeking to solve the case in order to avoid an international incident. With her uneasy alliance, Carrie delves deeper into the mystery, discovering ties to a Russian plane that disappeared more than 50 years ago. But time is short, and if they don't solve the crime before the last air lift leaves in two days, winter will set in, and they'll be forced to stay at the base through six months of sun-less snow.
The End Result
I haven't read the graphic novel upon which it's based, but I imagine (read: hope) that its contents have been butchered by the two pairs of screenwriters who worked on Whiteout. They desperately want us to believe that the story is fresh, interesting and complex, but instead they deliver a tale that's shallow and predictable, attempting to cover up its deficiencies with blizzards and body parts. Hey, look what minus-120-degree weather can do to human skin! (Footsteps running away, tires squealing.)
Apart from the snowy surroundings, everything about Whiteout is about as fresh as an episode of Quincy, with "twists" that have been seen countless times before and are guessable from the opening scenes. The sleuthing process of the central characters is perfunctory at best -- something like CSI: Antarctica -- and at worst lazily executed, skimming over any semblance of investigative process. This is the type of movie where the hero has "a bad feeling" or an illogical hunch that always turns out to be correct. Carrie walks in on a 50-year-old, frosted-over crime scene and immediately breaks down what happened with head-spinning jumps in logic. I would say that the writers didn't want to bog the story down, but then they toss in a 10-minute sequence about an avalanche that serves no purpose plot-wise, nor does it convey any drama, tension or thrills.
It's no surprise that director Dominic Sena, best known for Swordfish and Gone in 60 Seconds, is at his best during action sequences, which pop with an energy that hints at the movie's potential. The other scenes, though, have no emotional impact, and scares are non-existent as Sena struggles to figure out if he's directing action, horror or mystery. He ends up delivering precious little of any of the three, feeding into the unintentional camp of the dialogue with his workmanlike storytelling and overabundance of lazy flashbacks. If it weren't bad enough that the plot is dumbed down into a string of cliches, it's then spoon-fed to the audience with flashback after flashback after -- wait for it -- flashback.
Beckinsale is a likable heroine who has displayed her abundant physicality in the Underworld series, but in Whiteout, she's reduced to fleeing, fumbling around in the snow and reciting hammy dialogue that more than once drew laughs from the audience I was in. At least some people got a kick out of it.