Director: Tomas Alfredson
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, Charlotte Gainsbourg, J. K. Simmons, Val Kilmer, Toby Jones
Running time: 130 minutes
Troubled but terrific Oslo detective Harry Hole (Fassbender) balances less than commendable fathering with alcoholism and a stagnating work life. While tagging along on a missing persons case led by new recruit Katrine Bratt (Ferguson), it becomes clear that everything is tied to a serial killer who’s been at large for years, with a rather distinctive calling card…
On paper, The Snowman should be up there as one of 2017’s best thrillers. An adaptation from an immensely popular book series, a director whose film credentials include such heavyweights as Let the Right One In and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and a cast that boasts not only A-list headliners in Fassbender and Ferguson, but also a remarkably impressive plethora of supporting talent too (Val Kilmer, Toby Jones, and J. K. Simmons).
This couldn’t not work, right?
Well, unfortunately for some, movies don’t play out on paper. They do however, apparently play out on snow, as is the case here – but on snow that all too quickly melts into mediocrity.
This isn’t the first time this year we’ve experienced murder on ice. Taylor Sheridan’s impressive Wind River, set in the sub-zero terrains of Wyoming, taught us that life in the snow can be cold in more ways than one. Come October, and Tomas Alfredson ain’t letting us forget that fact anytime soon.
Fassbender is Harry Hole – a rugged loner who plays by his own rules and indulges in the odd stiff drink from time to time. Spending his nights with a bottle to his lips and his head on the sofa of his office or the bench of a children’s outdoor play area, he’s a pretty lousy parent, but a pretty phenomenal crime fighter. Cue the predictable tag-team with the equally brilliant and self-assured rookie Katrine, and The Snowman feeds us a character dynamic seasoned heavily with the flavour of familiarity. Inevitably, it soon transpires that the case they’re working on is just the tip of the iceberg, and there is something far more sinister at work.
The problem is, nothing much else here works. The film’s back and forth, to and fro timelines are far too confusing, and the various sub-plots involving homicide, Hole’s domestic life, and hosting the Winter Sports World Cup all feel incredibly convoluted and messily intertwined. In fact, the entire film feels like one big rectangular object being forced into a spherical shaped hole (insert your own a-Hole joke here). Character arcs feel frustratingly, and lazily, incomplete; and the dialogue, at times, leaves a lot be desired.
Despite this, there are some impressively grisly set-pieces on offer here, however – even if the final revelations lack the intended shock factor. Namely, the discovery of a severed head atop the body of snowman is gruesomely inventive; and, if little else, the film certainly succeeds in making our button-eyed, carrot-nosed festive friends as unnervingly creepy as possible. Sadly though, despite acclaimed Norwegian author Jo Nesbø churning out eleven Harry Hole tales so far (The Snowman being the seventh), on this showing, we’ll be (un)lucky to see even a second cinematic instalment.
So Scandi-crime noir seems to be all the rage at present. Unfortunately, Alfredson’s Scandi-crime noir will leave you with nothing but rage. Been there, done that – and done that a lot better. Not even Aled Jones could save this Snowman.