Director: Tomas Alfredson
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson & Charlotte Gainsbourg
Review Author: Shaun
Rating: 1 / 5 melted snowmen
The Snowman is the first Scandinavian crime drama I’ve seen. I’m no stranger to director Tomas Alfredson who’s 2008 film, “Let the Right One In”, is a perfect example of crafting silent suspense. His work on Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is also exemplary and deserves praise. So upon seeing the trailer for The Snowman, there was a degree of interest. However, to be brutally honest, from a director that has created great, intense thrillers, The Snowman is very mellow.
Thrilling moments are derived from a story that is gripping, has characters to root for, and a satisfactory pay off. These can only be accomplished when your film leaves a good impression before the title shows. The Snowman’s introduction scene sets the bar for the rest of the film as everything seems out-of-place and scrambled. All the clues are there and yes, they should be presented in different segments of the narrative to enhance the pay off when the killer is revealed. However, there are so many clues where their importance isn’t stretched out, making for a convoluted narrative. There is a segment involving a bid for the winter sports world cup that is so confusing, audiences will be left wondering how many segments like this have anything to do with the central story of finding the killer.
The characters are somewhat likable, but they don’t have enough traits or personality for me to latch onto them let alone care. Even if the film has Michael Fassbender as the drunk, failing father, Harry Hole. Fassbender is one of the most versatile actors working today, something about him can fit a myriad of roles, but that’s just it. He can fit every role, but the actual role should be engaging and have us latched on. I won’t deny that his performance is OK at best, but the fact you have a very talented and well-known actor playing you’re leading role doesn’t make the audience instantly root for him at the snap of a finger. Instead, you need a well-written character with layers.
From the moment the title showed up, I had a gut feeling that the people around me were in for a bumpy ride. The actual film-making that went into the first scene was questionable. I’m not quite sure if it was the use of different cameras or an inconsistency with the colour correction but somehow the scene didn’t look right. The different colours seemed brighter in one shot than the following shot. While these inconsistencies can be missed by some audiences, the eagle-eyed amongst us will feel taken out of the story and instead focus on how the execution of the scene is partially disrupted by these film-making errors.
Credit where credit is due, the source material it is adapted from certainly sounds more interesting to people like me who aren’t the most up to date on Scandinavian crime dramas. The Snowman is the seventh book in Jo Nesbø’s, Harry Hole series (that brings up the question of why not adapt the first novel?), and has a cool concept for a serial killer. It makes me wonder what other mysteries the character of Harry Hole has solved before.
The location of Norway is breath-taking. The snowy setting and harsh environment could have created a lot of elements to enhance the story, but it’s wasted potential. You have an interesting calling card for the killer in the making of snowmen, you have the beautiful background of the snowy mountainous views of Norway and Oslo, however, it is as if these elements are a cloth that covers the many problems this film has.
Overall, The Snowman is a narrative mess with a story too convoluted and too complex that it’s difficult to pinpoint which part is relevant to the mystery or which parts are pointless exposition. A solid director and solid cast are squandered on a messy script that neither thrills or even captures your attention.