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'Whiteout' not so bright

Article Published: Sep. 24, 2009 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
'Whiteout' not so bright

"Your tauntaun will freeze before you reach the first marker!" Kate Beckinsale stars in 'Whiteout.'

With the Kate Beckinsale thriller Whiteout, I was afforded a rare movie-going experience. Having not even seen a trailer, I entered the cinema knowing only what I'd seen on the poster - that the film featured Kate Beckinsale (Underworld, The Aviator) and snow.

True to its word, there's an abundance of both, along with a somewhat predictable, but still suspenseful, murder mystery. Throw in some forensic gross-out scenes right out of TV's CSI, a gratuitous but not-so-revealing Beckinsale shower scene, and you've got a thriller that plays like a network crime drama. And without Richard Belzer.

Unfortunately, this mediocrity is its downfall. Whiteout, set in Antarctica, fails to take full advantage of its exotic surroundings, opting instead for a tried, true and tired formula.

Whiteout stars Beckinsale as U.S. Marshal Carrie Stetko, willfully assigned to an international research station on the icy continent. Hoping to escape a haunting past, Stetko is content fielding victimless crimes and simple misdemeanors, until the corpse of a station geologist is discovered in the Antarctic wild.

The investigation leads her to several different research stations, as well as a parka-clad, ice-axe wielding killer, keen on making more victims. With the help of a United Nations operative (Gabriel Macht, The Spirit), her pilot (Columbus Short, Quarantine) and station medico (Tom Skerritt, M*A*S*H), Stetko must determine the killer's motive, while preventing him from striking again.

Hoping to avoid further deaths and a hellacious winter storm, station personnel begin to hurriedly evacuate, meaning Stetko must unmask the killer before he or she can escape with the rest.

Most of the film's suspense can be found in the snow, as Stetko and company are stalked by their assailant in full-on blizzard conditions. But rather than presenting the psychologically trying effects of isolation at its coldest, the setting is wasted on a handful of chase sequences.

The screenplay, based on Greg Rucka's graphic novel of the same name, is dumbed down to the point that its excessive flashbacks depict scenes that happened mere minutes beforehand, and the filmmakers leave no stone unturned in ensuring the audience "gets it," leaving no room for speculation and leading to a blatantly obvious plot twist.

Directed by Dominic Sena (Swordfish), Whiteout is rated R for violence, grisly images, brief strong language and some nudity. It is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone.

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