“We’re trudging through the slush”.
Unlike its animated namesake, “The Snowman” is not a good film. Frustratingly it has all the right ingredients:
- A story by bestselling Nordic writer Jo Nesbø;
- Gorgeously photogenic snowy scenes of Oslo and Bergen;
- A stellar cast (Michael Fassbender (“Alien: Covenant“); Rebecca Ferguson (“Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation“); J.K. Simmons (“Whiplash“); Toby Jones (“Dad’s Army“); Chloe Sevigny (“Love and Friendship“); Charlotte Gainsbourg (“Independence Day: Resurgence“, very sexy as Fassbender’s ex-squeeze) and even Val Kilmer (“Top Gun”, whose mother – interesting fact – is actually Swedish).
And while these elements congeal in the snow together quite well as vignettes, the whole film jerks from vignette to vignette in a most unsatisfactory way. I haven’t read the book (which might be much better) but the inclusion in the (terrible!) trailers of key scenes that never made the final cut (where was the fire for example?, the fish? the man trap?) implied to me that the director (Tomas Alfredson, “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy”) and screenwriting team – Peter Straughan (also “Tinker, Tailor”), Hossein Amini (“The Two Faces of January“) and Søren Sveistrup (TV’s “The Killing”) – either didn’t have (or didn’t agree on) the direction they wanted the film to go in.
Nesbø (and indeed most crime writers these days) litter their work with damaged cops…. you have to question whether the detective application form has a mandatory check-box with “alcoholic and borderline psycho” on it!. This film is no exception. Fassbender plays Nesbø’s master sleuth Harry Hole: an alcoholic insomniac well off the rails between homicide cases. “If only Oslo had a higher murder rate” bemoans his boss (Ronan Vibert). He joins forces with newby officer Katrine Bratt (Rebecca Ferguson), who has her fair share of mental demons to fight, in investigating a series of missing person/murder cases. The duo unearth a link between the cases – all happen when the snow starts to fall and to particular types of women, with the protagonist leaving a snowman at the scene.
The plot is highly formulaic – I guessed who the killer was within about 20 minutes. But what makes this movie stand out, for all the wrong reasons, is that it has one of the most stupid, vacuous, flaccid, inane, ridiculous … (add 50 other thesaurus entries)… endings imaginable. My mouth actually gaped in astonishment!
There are also a surprisingly large number of loose ends you ponder after the film ends: why the “Snowman”‘s fixation with Harry?; what was with the “Vetlesen cleaner” subplot? How is Star Trek transportation possible in Norway? (But wait… “Telemark”… “Teleport”…. coincidence????? 🙂 )
On the plus side, there is some lovely Norwegian drone cinematography – (by Australian Dion Beebe (“Edge of Tomorrow“) – that immediately made me put “travel by winter train from Oslo to Bergen” on my life-map. The music by Marco Beltrami (“Logan“) is also effective and suitably Hitchcockian.
If you like your films gory, this one is definitely for you, with some pretty graphic content that (for those who like to cover their eyes) is cut to so quickly by editors Thelma Schoonmaker (“The Wolf of Wall Street“) and Claire Simpson (“Far From The Madding Crowd“) that your hands won’t have time to leave your lap! I remember this being a feature of a previous Nesbø adaptation (the much better “Headhunters” from 2011) but here it goes into overdrive.
Overall this was a rather disappointing effort that was heading for a FFf rating. But just because of that ending I’m knocking a whole extra Fad off!
Fad Rating: Ff.
(I described the trailers above as “terrible” so I’d advise you not watch it if possible before seeing the film. I’ve chosen the better (US) one below, but it still gives too many spoilers, ploughing on like a buffalo in a china shop. As I’ve ranted before, the art of ‘teaser trailers’ is becoming a lost one… sigh.)