Tuesday, January 03, 2012


Whiteout and The Back-up Plan

Tom Skerritt and Kate Beckinsale in Whiteout.

Last Tuesday, as part of Todd Mason's weekly meme about Overlooked/Forgotten Films at his blog Sweet Freedom, I wrote about the James Franco starrer Annapolis which, in my opinion, deserved to be overlooked and forgotten, in a different sense than what this entertaining meme is really about. Over the weekend I saw Whiteout (2009) and The Back-up Plan (2010), two more films I had no hesitation in placing in the watch-and-forget category. And to think I've been cribbing about not having enough time to read books or play chess. 

By some coincidence, Whiteout and The Back-up Plan tell the stories of two women who are unsure of the men in their lives (actually, in their midst), though, in vastly different circumstances.

In Whiteout, directed by Dominic Sena, US Marshal Carrie Stetko (Kate Beckinsale) is stranded at a deserted research station in Antarctica, for six months of a fierce winter storm, as she tries to hunt down a serial killer responsible for the murders of his associates, all of them involved in diamond smuggling. Stetko eventually nails the killer and also discovers the role of her close friend and ageing station medic Dr. John Fury (Tom Skerritt) in the diamond smuggling. The marshal gives Stetko, a harmless bloke who meant no harm, a grim choice: either she turns him in or he goes out into the whiteout where nothing is visible and only death waits. Dr. Fury chooses the latter, but not before a final drink and one last look at the aurora.

The man in the film, or in Stetko's life, is Robert Pryce (Gabriel Macht), a UN security agent who mysteriously lands up at the station to assist in the investigation. Stetko suspects his motives but these prove unfounded as the UN agent comes to her rescue during a particularly intense struggle with the killer in the middle of a deadly snowstorm.

Whiteout is supposed to be a thriller but I failed to see the suspense. It has its moments, though. For instance, much of the film is shot outdoors, in the frozen climes of Antarctica, a white-and-grey landscape that looks like the last place god made. Beckinsale does well as Marshal Stetko though she could do with more expression on her face. She could have been a part of the evacuation of the cold continent but decides to stay back for up to six months and investigate the murders—a tense period during which she discovers a trail of blood and dead bodies, a crashed Russian plane, and unexplained cargo, gets trapped in a tunnel, loses a finger, and nearly lose her life more than once.

There's plenty of action in Whiteout, no doubt, but it's all still white and grey and visibility is near zero—a blizzard of a movie that you might see on a cold and wet day. If I were you, I'd go for that unsolved jigsaw puzzle on the table.

The Back-up Plan, directed by Alan Poul, is arguably one of the silliest movies I've seen in recent months. It's meant to be a romantic comedy but, just as I failed to see the suspense in Whiteout, I didn't see the romance in this one. Zoe (Jennifer Lopez) realises she's getting on in life with no sign of settling down with a husband and children. With no man in her life, Zoe decides to have a baby through artificial insemination, prepares for the role of a single mother, and promptly falls for Stan (Alex O'Loughlin).

Alex O'Loughlin and Jennifer Lopez in The Back-up Plan.
The reason Zoe is in no-man-in-my-life situation is because she doesn't let anyone get too close to her. Not even Stan who sticks by her even after she shocks him with news that she's pregnant, with twins she later discovers. A case of two very cold feet.

At one point, Stan, who hides his own misgivings about instant fatherhood and tries hard to make Zoe feel secure and wanted, tells her "I love you" and a pregnant Zoe responds by throwing up in the sink. "Not the answer I was looking for," Stan murmurs.

In the end Zoe overcomes her fear of commitment, with a little help from her "just married" grandmother, her only blood relation, and runs back to Stan in case she loses him too. You can't help wondering to yourself, "Why is he still around? Come on, Stan, go get a life."

Photo courtesy: Warner Bros. Pictures for Whiteout and CBS Films for The Back-up Plan


  1. Hi Prashant, happy new year -
    I am totally convinced and will definitely stay away from these two ... I was going to write 'turkeys', but Christmas is really over, right? Shame about the movies though because I actually quite like Beckinsale and O'Loughlin - oh well ...

  2. Thanks, Sergio, wish you the same. Beckinsale and O'Loughlin are fine actors but the movies didn't work for me. Perhaps I'm just being choosy with my films.