A scientific research station in the most remote, most extreme environment on Earth is the setting for a murder mystery starring Kate Beckinsale and adapted from a popular graphic novel.
Just outside the warm, safe housing and laboratories at the South Pole, a grim fate awaits anyone caught in the bitter cold of Antarctica. But it is into that frozen desolation that the continent's only American law officer, U.S. Marshal Carrie Stetko, must go to solve a grisly series of murders.
The trail of bodies leads her to other remote research outposts and stretches back more than five decades to the wreckage of a crashed Soviet airplane buried under meters of ice.
Kate Beckinsale plays Marshal Stetko, the latest in a string of action roles for the English-born beauty whose career has ranged from last year's politically-charged "Nothing But The Truth" to the "Underworld" vampire thrillers.
"Obviously it is on a slightly broader scale whenever you do a movie that's based on a comic book - a commercial movie like this. It is not the same level of research. They don't want the same level of emotional commitment," she says. "It was a lot more intense, actually, because we were all worried we were going to die of hypothermia every other second. It's a woman in an extreme situation with extreme weather …but it was more intense just because of the weather."
Beckinsale reveals that a certain amount of movie magic puts her character in the Antarctic setting even though she did not get to go to the icy continent.
"No, but I did go to Manitoba [Canada] where it was minus-58 degrees. So there is me going "oh, I grew up in London and I made a movie in Budapest, so I know …" but I couldn't believe how cold it was. It was shocking. Every time you go to take a breath it makes you cough because it is so cold in your throat. I thought they were doing makeup tests on the guys in the crew to test out the kind of snow-in-your-beard look; but they all had for real. My hair would get frozen into a point of ice because I was breathing on it. It was just unbelievable," she says. "I did get frightened that first day when I felt "I can't breathe at all! Is this going to be the case the entire time? It is unbearable." But you do get used to it."
Producer Joel Silver, a veteran of numerous action features, says the harsh climate - almost a character itself - did pose challenges to making the film. "We did augment a lot of the climate and weather with visual effects, which makes it [look] harsher than it really was; but it was cold and we were shooting on a frozen lakebed. It wasn't treacherous. The ice was many, many feet deep, but it really felt like where we were portraying and the stuff we did outside was rough," he says.
"Whiteout" is based on a 1998 graphic novel and co-author and artist Greg Rucka is pleased with the transition from page to screen.
"Steve Lieber and I created a comic to tell the story we wanted to tell in that format. Then Joel [Silver] comes along and says 'we're going to make a movie!' and you go 'okay, knock yourself out.' Then they do and all you can really be is be incredibly flattered that this idea that you created in one format …somebody wants to take the time and the effort to translate it. I'm incredibly pleased. There is a lot of stuff that doesn't make the jump and the mere fact that they've done it with this is really exciting," he says.
"Whiteout" takes its name from the wind-driven, zero-visibility blizzards that rake the Polar Regions. The cast also features Gabriel Macht, Columbus Short and Tom Skerrit. The director is Dominic Sena.