Throwback Thursday: Whiteout Isn’t All Bad

Throwback Thursday examines films from the past—“classic” films that might not be in the current cultural zeitgeist but can still be important, interesting, fun, or all of the above.

I’m going out on a limb with this one . . . a film that was panned by critics and didn’t make back its production costs on its theatrical release, but still has some good points to it. I’m talking about 2009’s Whiteout, based on the comic miniseries by Greg Rucka and Steve Lieber, starring Kate Beckinsale.

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Whiteout poster

I admit I am a huge Beckinsale fan—ever since her turn as Hero in Kenneth Branagh’s Much Ado About Nothing—even through all the Underworld films (some of which were better than others). So when I heard that she was set to star in the film adaptation of Rucka’s comic I was sold. The film takes place in Antarctica and follows US Marshal Carrie Stetko (Beckinsale) as she tries to piece together the death of a man found on a freezing mesa.

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Mr Boddy’s body . . . it’s still there.

First, let me get the big negative of the film out of the way. It can feel draggy, and with only so many named characters showing up you can (theoretically) figure out the identity of the killer pretty easily, which doesn’t make the film work well as a murder mystery. Luckily, this isn’t Murder She Wrote; Jessica Fletcher wouldn’t last a minute in the Antarctic. (Side note: does anyone else ever think that Jessica committed those murders and just pinned them all on stupid people?)

What does work for me is the extreme conditions these characters are subjected to. It’s interesting to see the difference between this film and John Carpenter’s The Thing; both take place in these horrid conditions, but only in Whiteout is there a clear threat of nature. Nature kills more people in this film than people do. You also get to see what happens to wet skin in subzero temperatures—it’s a heck of a lot worse than what happens when a kid sticks their tongue on a flagpole in winter.

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Find that guide rope.

With a winter storm coming, there is also a great chase set in windy, near-whiteout conditions. It’s a fun scene to watch, and it works very well in spatial relationship to the station outpost. There is a definite reason that when first see the base, it’s from a great shot that then follows Beckinsale as she walks into the station. This setup pays off well in the storm chase scene.

While not a great film by any stretch of the imagination, there is enough in Whiteout to recommend it as a winter film that will definitely have you digging your toes deeper into the blankets as you watch it. I do recommend Rucka as an author as well.

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Cover for issue #1 of Whiteout from Oni Press

This film can be found on both Blu-ray and DVD. It is currently available via Netflix, but streaming offerings change frequently, so keep an eye out. Feel free to discuss further in the comments below; just keep it respectful.

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