Director: Tomas Alfredson Starring: Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, Charlotte Gainsbourg, J.K. Simmons, Toby Jones, Val Kilmer Running time: 119 mins
Nordic noir is something that Hollywood has been trying to crack for many years. Although movies, novels and TV shows on this side of the pond have slashed their way to nordic noir notoriety, Hollywood’s attempts to produce this type of dark, urban-based crime fiction hasn’t produced many results.
Expectations were high, however, when news broke of The Snowman; a Jo Nesbø novel adaptation directed by Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy director Tomas Alfredson, starring Michael Fassbender and produced by none other than Martin Scorsese. On paper The Snowman should be a masterpiece. In reality, it couldn’t be further from one.
Based on Nesbø’s acclaimed novel of the same name, The Snowman follows Michael Fassbender’s Harry Hole, who, despite his unfortunate name, is one of the most renowned detectives in Norway. When the first snowfall of the year sets off a string of murders involving young women, Hole and rookie Kathrine Bratt (Ferguson) search for the elusive ‘Snowman Killer’ who taunts the detectives by leaving a snowman at the scene of every violent crime he commits.
In all honesty absolutely nothing about The Snowman works. From the very first scene, it becomes apparent that the filmmakers have failed to grasp the tone of Nesbø’s novels, that little thought has been put into the production (particularly the music and editing) and that the next two hours are going to feel like ten. The snowy terrains of the Scandinavian countryside lend themselves well to movies as gruesome and bleak as this one, yet The Snowman somehow manages to shoot them with an overproduced and tacky texture. Despite the opening scene, there is genuinely nothing terrifying or unwelcoming about the world in which our murder mystery takes place, which, for a ‘noir’ film, is not a positive note.
The Snowman is, without a doubt, the most incoherent and convoluted thriller you will see all year, due in large part to its shoddy editing style. At times the movie feels like a YouTube video cunningly edited by 13 year olds giggling at how stupid they can make famous people look. Attempts to cultivate any element of mystique or tension are ruined by poor editing decisions, with obvious ADR work, badly executed flashbacks and scenes that rush and blend into each other sucking you out of the story on a frequent basis.
With various problems being experienced behind the camera, the film never takes time to introduce its characters, or even go as far as to justify their existence. J.K. Simmons, Chloë Sevigny, David Dencik and Toby Jones (all of whom are brilliantly talented actors) are totally under-utilised and are never integrated into the main storyline in an effective way. As a result of these issues, there is a disconnect between the audience and the characters, particularly with Harry Hole, our mysterious and flawed protagonist.
Throughout the movie we are shovelled dialogue concerning how talented Hole is as a detective, yet he does nothing in this film that would even suggest that. In an attempt to make him the mysterious and flawed detective, Fassbender approaches every scene devoid of emotion with a vacant expression. Instead, Harry Hole comes off as an uncharismatic and uninteresting man who we have to follow for 2 hours while events just seem to occur around him.
The Snowman could have been so much more. With the level of talent involved, it is hard to see how the film fell apart in such a spectacular manner. We can still look forward to where Alfredson and Fassbender’s respective careers will take them (they have done enough in the past to suggest that this is merely a blip), however Harry Hole shouldn’t be involved in any way…(1 / 5)