One and a half stars
By Thomas Tracy
Really, really bad snowstorms rarely hit Brooklyn these days.
But when they do, everyone knows it’s extremely hard to see anything in them.
In “Whiteout,” a lukewarm mystery named for the deadly Antarctic snow storms that can wipe people places and things from the face of the planet, you can barely see anything, like a plot.
What one will see in the snow-covered screen relatively quickly is how fans of classic arctic thrill rides like “The Thing” — both the 1982 and 1951 versions — will be woefully disappointed in “Whiteout” unless they are really, really, really big fans of Kate Beckinsale (“Underworld”).
Trying to bridge the gap from campy action fare she cut her teeth on (“Van Helsing,” anyone?) and the independent films she’s been seen in recently (“Winged Creatures” for example) Beckinsale plays U.S. Marshall Carrie Stetko, who has had the misfortune of being transferred from one of the warmest places on Earth — Miami — to the coldest: a remote science station at South Pole.
Since she’s bundled up in bulky winter gear for most of the film, we first catch her taking a long, seductive shower.
But that’s the only heat we get for the next 101 minutes: Stetko is immediately called into action when someone is murdered out on the ice shelf. Racing against time, and a shadowy figure that drops bodies faster than the temperature (we know just how cold it is thanks to a weather update routinely provided by director Dominic Sena), Stetko and her crew try to get at the heart of a murder spree that has something to do with a mysterious box hidden in a Soviet airplane which crashed into the snow some 50 years ago.
But while the oncoming storm is a major antagonist to Stetko’s investigation, it’s also a thorn in the side for viewers.
As the snow barrels in, it becomes more and more difficult to figure out who’s in the mess of white parkas frantically fighting for answers.
By the end, “Whiteout” ends up looking like two polar bears boxing in a snow storm — you can see something moving, but you’ll be damned if you can tell which southpaw threw the first punch. In short, it leaves viewers out in the cold.
“Whiteout.” Starring Kate Beckinsale and Tom Skerritt. Directed by Domenic Sena. Running time: 101 minutes. Rated R for violence, grisly images, brief strong language and some nudity.