UNIVERSAL PICTURES (2017)
Director: Tomas Alfredson
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Val Kilmer, J.K. Simmons, Toby Jones, Chloë Sevigny, James D'Arcy, Genevieve O' Reilly, Jonas Karlsson
“I think it’s the falling snow that sets the killer off.”
Snigger. It’s a daft line.
Six years after the very good Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Tomas Alfredson returns with the big screen adaptation of Jo Nesbø’s The Snowman novel. One of eleven novels, the story follows detective Harry Hole (also…snigger) as he investigates various murders in Norway, all connected by a chilling (geddit?) calling card – a snowman.
The main crime is that The Snowman got greenlit for release.
Winter is here. Snow is falling. After returning home one evening, Birte Becker (O’Reilly) subsequently disappears and the case is passed to ‘legendary’ detective Harry Hole (Fassbender) to investigate. A note at the crime scene left for “Mister Police” informs Hole that he has been given all the clues to solve the case and is signed off with an image of a snowman. As more and more disappearances are reported, and a body count begins with snowmen appearing at each of the scenes, Hole recruits Katrine Bratt (Ferguson) to his team in order to halt the terror. A Winter Olympic bid, headed by Arve Stop (Simmons) distracts the locals from the crimes and Hole’s estranged wife, Rakel (Gainsbourg), and son, Oleg (Michael Yates), struggle with Harry’s proximity to the case, including his dalliances with Rakel’s new man, Mathias (Karlsson). The investigation takes Harry and Katrine back to cold cases of decades before as suspects crop up at each turn and lead them closer to danger with every step.
I tried to dramatise the narrative as much as possible, in order to attempt to sell the movie as complete or connective. It’s neither. The Snowman is shambolically presented – the editing is utterly bewildering and therefore the story becomes near-unintelligible as it rolls on (apparently, Alfredson claims that 10-15% of the script was never filmed, footage that would’ve fleshed out the story into something with clarity). Because of the lack of editing, the pacing is terrible, this movie drags and drags and you’ll wait for it to begin, but it never seems to. After the (brief) setup at the start, the movie fails to expand and builds to…nothing. The characters are flat, bland and undeveloped – criminally so for a movie that tries to wave the franchise flag. Hole is gushingly described by one character as a “legend” - bar this one mention, NOTHING is shown to back this up, Hole literally does sod all apart from frown, squint and drag out his investigation. There’s no reason to believe he’s a cop, let alone a good one. Apparently, the killer gave him all the clues too! I must’ve missed that part. You will identify the killer the first time they appear, the writing makes sure of that. There are subplots involving the Winter Olympic and new police tech known as EviSync that LITERALLY ADD NOTHING TO THE STORY. It’s worse than frustrating.
Seemingly managing to gauge future audience reaction, the cast all seem bored as they trudge through their lines and performances. Fassbender has nothing about him here, no charisma or anything that would engage the audience with his character, it’s a laboured, uninterested performance by a very good actor. The same can also be said of Ferguson, Gainsbourg and pretty much everyone else involved. Val Kilmer has an odd cameo with a badly dubbed and poorly synced voice which begs the question, what was the point? J.K. Simmons scrapes through intact, mainly because his scenes are near-unnecessary in the overall scope of the movie.
The soundtrack and musical choices are just as ill-advised. The score tries to jolt scenes to life, but by failing, creates another disconnect in the movie.
What can be highlighted positively is the stunning cinematography that emphasises the sheer natural beauty of Norway and its vast snowy tundras. The towering mountains loom majestically in the background and the Atlantic Ocean Road is a beautiful construction that translates wonderfully onto the big screen. DoP Dion Beebe is the movies MVP, no doubt.
It’s been a long time since Alfredon delivered Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, even longer since the glorious Let the Right One In, and his return is a massive disappointment. If you want a snowy thriller this year, Wind River will satisfy you far more than The Snowman. There’s so much in the source material that could have provided inspiration for a very good crime-thriller, it’s unfathomable to think how everyone involved, including the fantastic cast, got this so wrong. For a movie that's seemingly incomplete to receive a wide release is a strange, unacceptable travesty.
Alfredson once directed a movie titled Four Shades of Brown – that pretty much sums up The Snowman.
November 16th 2017