Director: Tomas Alfredson
Screenwriter: Hossein Amini, Peter Straughan
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Val Kilmer, Toby Jones, David Dencik, James D’Arcy, J.K. Simmons
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Rated R | 119 Minutes
Release Date: October 20, 2017
A good mystery thriller has us on the edge of our seats and has us convinced we know who the criminal is at some point in the movie only to realize it wasn’t who we thought it was. It builds upon itself with great characters giving more than terrific performances. And it has a story that keeps us engaged for the entire duration.
But Tomas Alfredson‘s adaptation of Jo Nesbø‘s The Snowman is anything but the aforementioned qualities. It is sporadic, horribly paced, and lacks any sort of structure. Instead, we are given a fairly predictable film that feels like it was just piled on top of each other trying to pass itself off as a decent movie. My full review below.
Despite the top of the line cast consisting of Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Val Kilmer, Toby Jones, David Dencik, James D’Arcy and J.K. Simmons, The Snowman wastes all that star power in hopes that the utter shock factor of the killer maliciously mutilating his victims my taking off their heads and putting it on a snowman’s body or putting a snowman’s head on the victim’s body would hook audiences in and hope that they would cheer for our drunken Harry Hole (Fassbender) to find the killer before he strikes again.
The film actually starts off with a flashback that sets the tone of the film and gives our character the motivation he needs to do what he does in the film. The boy lives in an abusive relationship where failing to answer specific historical questions results in his uncle slapping his mother around. As the mother has had enough, she is forced to threaten him that she will reveal the truth to his wife. This results in a chase that doesn’t really lead anywhere until the mother gives up and slides right onto a sheet of thin ice. While the boy was able to get out, the mother looks at him with a cold dead stare and let’s herself die.
Flash forward to the present day where we see Harry, who is Oslo’s top detective, waking up from a drunken stupor in a playground house. His obvious reckless behavior doesn’t allow him to make very many connections. He often distances himself by sitting alone, and going as far placing the seat opposite of him at another table. Just to stress that he is a lone wolf.
However, he is forced to take on a partner, Katrine (Ferguson) when a string of disappearances start to have a similar pattern. The new detective has studied his cases at the academy, but the working relationship between the two is frosty. When they are assigned a case of a missing women, their different working styles play out on screen. While Katrine grills the husband, Harry kindly asks the daughter for questions. One thing they find out is that these women disappear or end up dead during the first fall of snow. Soon, they discover that these cases go back for decades, and they are forced to put their differences aside to stop the killer from striking in the cold dead of winter again.
As interesting as another adaptation of a Jo Nesbø novel sounds, the execution of its adaptation melts away, no thanks to the strange pacing and lack of direction. And with The Snowman‘s subplots trying to thread the decades-old case together by revealing intriguing trails, the film could have gone to interesting places. These flashbacks take us back to the past when the killer was beginning to strike and a similarly drunk and reckless detective (Kilmer) – who seems have a very strange dub or terrible ADR – was beginning to put the pieces together. However, his attitude towards his fellow detectives (Jones) and the department, lead to a suspension.
On the surface, these subplots have interesting connections and a few poorly constructed misdirects. Rather than give The Snowman some false leads, the film delves into a vicious pattern that is on the verge of repeating itself unless these detectives can stop making bad choices. The more than obvious red herrings in the film, played by a strange therapist (Dencik) who acts as a pimp for Arve (Simmons) philanthropist bent on bringing the winter games to Solo. And the too eager to please stepfather (D’Arcy) who enters Harry’s life. And even though he couldn’t care less about that relationship, the usually stoic Harry attempts to build a connection to his estranged wife and son.
At times, the film becomes too predictable when the red herrings believe that they are throwing you off the trail. Which probably reads better on paper than it does look on the big screen. At least you can imagine the tangibility, whereas, in the film, you can see the physical. So it the film suffers from being too predictable and by-the-numbers. Those suspects that Harry and Katerine are looking at are the wrong people, Oslo PD’s dependability of carrying around bulky documentation technology is used against them, and soon character motivations reveal what many of the audiences have already seen coming.
What The Snowman does is try to sell us a mystery thriller by using a killer with a penchant for dismembering his victims and using pieces of their bodies to leave unconventional calling cards. But that shock factor wears off fairly quickly, not even the music and shots of the soulless statues of innocence can keep the film from being scary. Instead, it just throws things around hoping things will stick.