Directed by Dominic Sena
This movie is based on a well-regarded comic book from the 90s by Greg Rucka and Steve Lieber.
Special Deputy U.S. Marshal Carrie Stetko (Kate Beckinsale) who is trying to run away from her past finds herself investigating the first murder in Antarctica. As she investigates, she learns of forgotten Soviet plane crash and untraceable diamonds and a plot to smuggle them into civilization and make a fortune.
The premise is great. The first murder in Antarctica. Though when you think about it, it’s what occurred on the plane that’s the first murder and not what Kate Beckinsale is investigating. That’s being technical. It’s still a cool idea though.
The film does well in conveying the trauma that Stetko is still trying to come to terms with. Prior to the events of the film, she had been bringing in a suspect with her partner. The guy had bribed her partner to let him escape. He was going to kill her and be free. It didn’t quite work out that way and Beckinsale not only survived but upon realizing what was going on killed her partner. It left her with some deep scars which is why she came to the Antarctic and has decided to resign.
The movie tries to create suspense and tension. There is a time constraint to figure out what’s going on since everyone is leaving early because of an approaching storm. Stetko is racing against that. If she can’t then the killer will be able to dispose of evidence and get away. One of the suspects in the death is killed by a man dressed in dark gear welding on ice axe. The appearance of a masked killed helps but never ups the tension enough. It’s too much old school slasher horror film and doesn’t belong in a mystery-oriented film.
They try to create a red herring in the form of UN investigator Robert Pryce (Gabriel Macht). While his appearance is questionable and coincidental, his character helps more in the banter aspect than in the tension aspect. While Stetko and Pryce are not romantically linked at any point in this film, Pryce basically fills the role of love interest in the movie. His presence gives Stetko to have romantic tension with.
Tom Skerritt turns in a pretty good performance as Dr. John Fury, the slightly asshole camp doctor. His attitude is established early on when he is initiating some newbies into the conditions in which they will have to live by having them stand outside in their gear but without their coat while he plays putt putt. He’s almost always good. Truthfully I can’t think of anything he’s been bad in that I’ve seen.
The mystery isn’t too much of a mystery. The film feels more like a series of connected events given a semi-logical conclusion. I also disliked that all the guilty died by the end. That always struck me as a copout in any mystery movie. Everybody dies. Nobody ends up actually getting punished. Here the final surviving villain gets to walk out a door and freeze to death rather than face trial and go to jail. It is just lazy writing.
I took issue with the special effects at times. For example, the opening sequence with the plane was perhaps the most egregious example of mediocre special effects. The plane doesn’t come off as convincing. It’s obviously CGI. It looks like above average video game graphics. They should have shortened the exterior shots and interspersed more of what happened in the cabin with them. I think that would’ve helped to hide the weakness of what they did. When they avoided the use of computer graphics the film looked great. The untouched shots of the snow-covered environment. The exterior shots of the camp. All beautiful and impressive.
The premise is a pretty good premise, but the script is just an okay script. It just needed some polish before they went to filming. The mystery itself doesn’t feel like much of a mystery. It’s almost secondary to the character of Stetko. And I assume that was the point, but it feels like it’s fighting to come first. They wanted to focus on her trauma and give her something to overcome. In doing so they created a second narrative trying to be the primary narrative.
It was an enjoyable enough watch. It just needed more work before it got presented. If you go in expecting a sophisticated mystery you will end up disappointed. If you go in expecting anything else you MIGHT come out okay.