Whiteout Blu-ray Review
Optimum present Whiteout in its original 2.40:1, via MPEG-4. The print is fine and blemish-free and the film looks crisp, polished and slick. But there are some problems that I encountered with this check disc, folks.
The first is a major one that I know will rankle quite a few. It is the dreaded banding. This ugly effect bubbles-in almost immediately during the prologue sequence, filtering the Antarctic skies with mushy lines and, no, it is not the Aurora Borealis. This manifests itself several more times across the swathes of bluey-white and grey, and even again just as the final credits - which took a long, long time coming - begin to roll. Interiors, though, are largely, but not completely, free from this, so it is really just the elaborate landscape vistas and stormy skies that suffer.
Although black levels are fine and strong - maybe even a little too strong at times - contrast is poorly handled, with a few highlights exaggerated and a tendency to veer from bright to dull at the wrong times. Clinical detail can be quite good though, annoyingly, not with any consistency. For example, the uncovering of the truly wretched looking corpse at the beginning has plenty of icky delights in the coverage of the wounds, and close-ups of faces - particularly Skerritt's - yield a multitude of crags, wrinkles and whiskers, but once we reach middle-distance, things soften-up and details are lost. There are even too many occasions when one shot is sharp and finite, and the next is flatter and smoother, the resolution dropping very noticeably. Stetko can move from one hi-def room and enter a much softer, less defined one, and this pick 'n' mix quality is mildly irritating. A processed look mires the image at times that may be indicative of some haphazard DNR, though the picture also retains its layer of grain. I should point out that the majority of the film looks fine and nicely three-dimensional, though. The transfer cannot help with the CG elements, which are lousy and stand out a mile, but tracking shots that prowl down corridors and rove about rooms have depth and presence.
Colours are muted, with the exception of some nice rich reds. Well, of course they are. This is Antarctica, isn't it? But skin tones, clothing and equipment are hardly vivid in this transfer. Arguably, they were never supposed to be and I am not about to question that. However, I did notice that this check disc leaned a little towards a greenish/blue tinge. Now, once again, this may well be the intentional visual aesthetic, and since I don't have a point of reference - thankfully I didn't waste any money on this at the flicks and nor have I seen the US disc - I will let this go, too. Another plus, is that I did not encounter any elements of smearing, aliasing or any glaringly overt edge enhancement.
This transfer gets a 6 out of 10.
The US disc has Dolby TrueHD, whilst this UK equivalent carries its lossless audio in DTS-HD MA 5.1 flavour. There is also a much more subdued PCM 2-channel mix.
Although nothing too grand, the audio for Whiteout is actually quite effective. For a start, the natural ambience is well rendered, with Antarctic winds gusting across the soundfield and even floating about behind you from the rears during some of the quieter moments, just to remind you of where we are. Exterior scenes really benefit from this all-enveloping quality, with the storms whipping across you and occasionally sending objects like fuel drums scuttling front to back. Planes roaring overhead is another nice featured and several deep impacts benefit from the lively inclusion of the sub. Gunfire and clanging axes etc have a degree of vitality, but don't quite possess the punch of more accomplished mixes.
Subtlety isn't too bad. We have the authentic clatter of boots on steel, of pills being scattered to the floor and doors, locks and drawers rattling. Even the sound of coats being put on is brought across well. The overly busy score from John Frizzell, as disappointing and over-egged as it is, flutters and swells with appropriate clarity and there is a decent stereo image spread across the front.
What I will say is that dialogue does seem to have been dialled down in the mix, lacking some distinction and certainly not balanced as well as it should have been. Of course, once again, this is just a check disc that I am reviewing, but I cannot imagine that the full release version will realistically sound any different. All in all, this is a solid presentation that doesn't make any major errors, but doesn't compare with many other lossless action tracks out there. Whiteout gets a 7 out of 10 for its audio.
An incredibly poor selection here, folks.
Basically, all I would have wanted would be an apology from all concerned, but what we get is a woeful 12-minutes of flaky-pastry PR blah-blah from the cast and crew in The Coldest Thriller Ever. To while away those wasted minutes, you could always swap your own descriptions for the word Coldest in that title. Far more productive, I would say. No, seriously, I'm not knocking this because I didn't enjoy the film. I'm knocking it because it is gutless pap.
Then we get the potentially interesting look at the film's adaptation process in From Page to Screen, which runs for another 12 minutes. Here, original creator and writer Greg Rucka and his illustrator, Steve Lieber, show us pages from the stylish black-and-white source book, and discuss how the concept began, from setting to characters to story. Both exclaim much awe for seeing how their panels gained three-dimensional life on the screen, but it is certainly worth mentioning that they are both being interviewed at the time of the film's production, and that this featurette is, indeed, yet more PR fluff.
Besides the film's trailer, an advert for Snickers (!) and previews for The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus and The Hurt Locker, Whiteout also comes with a couple of Deleted Scenes. Now, personally, I wish there had been a lot more deleted out of this film, if you know what I mean, but the offerings here would have added diddly-squat to the story and are truly disappointing. I wouldn't even recommend having a gander at them.
So, Whiteout drops the ball with the extra features, too. Then again, this was sunk at the box office, so high hopes of a fan-base frothing at the chops for this release were non-existent - so why bother with anything worthwhile?
The worst film that I've seen for a while, Whiteout is a simpering mess that I felt compelled to switch off several times, only to suffer the unfortunate and ignoble duty of then having to return to it again a little later on for the purpose of this review. Beckinsale and her cast-mates squander any and all tension from the premise, and Dominic Sena directs with no hint of suspense, subtlety or excitement on his agenda. I haven't read the original graphic novel that it evolved from, and this take on the material has completely soured any intentions I had of ever doing so. A woeful first half is only partially made-up for when the action sporadically strikes up later on. But, by that time, you have probably had to surrender all interest in the shabby and ultimately lacklustre twists and turns of a surprisingly dull plot, and just resolved yourself to admiring the porcelain features of Kate.
Things don't fare a great deal better on the technical front, either. Optimum's transfer has a few issues - with banding, unresolved contrast and an inconsistent level of definition plaguing it. And the extras are a joke.
You want icy thrills? Then stick with The Thing (both Carpenter's and the Hawks/Nyby original), Ice Station Zebra or 30 Days Of Night. You want to side with a dogged Marshall fighting the odds against a ticking clock in a land of no escape? You've got High Noon and its SF update, Outland for that. Just don't bother with Whiteout. Or, rather, Wash-out.
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