January 27, 2010

Blu-ray Review: Whiteout

Whiteout arrived in theaters back in September where it was greeted with a resounding silence. It's opening weekend saw it land in seventh place and would be the only time it would appear in the top ten at the box office as it took a rather precipitous tumble down the charts. Not only was it a popular dud, it did not fare to well with the critical set, mustering a mere 7% on the tomatometer. To think, when I saw it I enjoyed it. Honestly. I did not think it was anything particularly special but I did enjoy the setting and thought it was an effective thriller that failed t rely on big effects and the typical trappings of other graphic novel adaptations.

Based on the graphic novel of the same name by Greg Rucka and Steve Lieber, Whiteout is not a superhero story like Watchmen or a new take on a genre like 30 Days of Night. No, it has smaller aspirations, instead of drawing the impossible, it took the possible and put it into drawing. Now, the the story has been taken back from the black and white pages and put onto the screen in the form of an unassuming thriller whose success lives and dies with he setting. If this were set in, say, the American Southwest it would just be another thriller. Move it to the South Pole and you give it a little more bite. It is still as familiar as ever, it is just a but colder.


Now, I mentioned that I liked it the first time I saw it and I am not lying. Although, I did realize that I was likely to be very lonely out on the frozen tundra inhabited by those who liked it. I didn't care, why should I go along with the crowd? Should I betray my integrity and no say I liked it when I did? Without my ability to write how I feel what use am I? Wait, don't answer that.

Whiteout has now arrived on Blu-ray and upon multiple viewings, I have found it to be a rather dull affair. I do not think it is terrible by any stretch, and there are still things that I like about it. The problem is that it just feels flat, like the cold has drained the life out of it. Where the cold, white, desolation worked on the big screen in the theater, it just looked plain and dull on the small screen. In the theater the vast white on the screen, the darkness of the room, and the air conditioning all added to the cold thrills of the story. I felt like I was right there with them. At home the illusion was broken and it was just me and the movie, not other factors there to help out.

The movie centers on a South Pole science station where US Marshal Carrie Stetko (Kate Beckinsale) is assigned. Her time is about up as the base is planning to clear out before a bad storm hits. Things are going well until a dead guy is found stuck to the ice. What is thought to be an accidental death is revealed to be a murder. This murder leads to a conspiracy on the base with a killer on the loose. It is up to Carrie to track down the truth before it is too late. As if that wasn't enough, Carrie went to this base to escape her past, which seems to be repeating itself again.


Audio/Video. I have to say that while the film has some moments of impressive visuals, the 2.4:1 widescreen image does not look as good as I would have liked it to. Actually, it is one of the more inconsistent Blu-rays I have seen. The sweeping shots of the cold white landscape look pretty good, but as soon as you start getting in on the characters fine detail seems to go away. It surely is better than DVD, but I expect more. I was a little surprised by how dull everything looked, as if the life were drained right out. The blacks are deep but detail gets lost and close-ups don't look particularly good. I guess it is all right, but not what it could have been.

The audio, on the hand, is quite good. The dialog is front and center and John Frizzell's score has a nice presence. Where the Dolby TruHD 5.1 track shines is when they are outside in the storm. It truly sounds like there is wind and snow blowing around you as the effect moves around all of the channels.

Extras. This release is a little light on the extras.

  • The Coldest Thriller Ever. This takes you behind the scenes as the production battles the elements. It may not be terribly great film, but I have to respect them for battling those frigid elements!
  • Whiteout: From Page to Screen. This takes a look at the development of the original graphic novel and the adaptation to the screen.
  • Deleted Scenes. Nothing special here, they would have just slowed the film down.
  • Digital Copy. For use on portable devices.

Bottomline. I guess it could have been worse, I could not have liked it at all. While a general dullness has been revealed in multiple viewings I still have a little affection for the general simplicity and straightforward manner with which it approaches the material. There is something refreshing about that. With that said, there is no reason to own it.

Very Mildly Recommended.

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