THE SNOWMAN Review
Director: Tomas Alfredson
Genre: Mystery, Crime
Okay, first of all, what? Second of all, why? I was speechless when I left the theatre, appalled that such a film had the audacity to call itself a thriller. Everyone knows I love Michael Fassbender and will happily go see any movie he is in (yes, even ASSASSIN’S CREED). That being said, if someone offered me a chance to have a nice romantic dinner with him, with the only caveat being another screening of this sad excuse for a crime film, I’d starve myself to death. Thinking about the money I squandered on THE SNOWMAN is almost as heartbreaking as the day I found out he finally got married.
THE SNOWMAN follows alcoholic detective Harry Hole (Fassbender) as he investigates the disappearances of several women in Oslo—all of which have two things in common: they’re married with kids and are having an affair. This psychotic murderer rampages through Norway, never truly satiating his obsession with killing women he deems amoral because of their unconventional choices in raising their families. He also likes to send Harry little handwritten love letters seemingly proofread by a third grader. Rookie officer Katrine Bratt (Rebecca Ferguson) is also on the case, attempting to help Harry on his quest to find and stop this “Snowman Killer” before he strikes again.
Harry is an unapologetic drunk, but Fassbender miraculously manages to build a little sympathy for him—though not quite enough to keep me interested throughout all the rampant plot contrivances in the film. Harry’s unbridled alcoholism initially seems to stem from a devastating loss earlier in his life, but the sympathy comes from seeing how much Harry still cares for others (though he often forgets his familial responsibilities). While there’s some arc to Harry, THE SNOWMAN simply does not have a coherent enough plot to engage me till the end, somehow having less direction than a drunken bride-to-be at a Bachelorette party in Vegas. It felt like the narrative was going to crumble under the weight of all the information it was trying to squeeze into itself, delving into a multitude of different storylines and then abandoning them all in the end. Most egregiously, the film never touches on what happens to the families of the women who are butchered by this sociopathic sadist, nor does it ever show the emotional impact the murders have on the characters.
The film boasts a plethora of underutilized stars who appear in clunky, unfitting subplots. Chloë Sevigny shows up as Sylvia Ottersen for all of five minutes before being beheaded—only to be resurrected as Ane Pedersen, Sylvia’s twin sister, for almost a full minute. Despite her gruesome death, which admittedly made the hair on the back of my neck stand up, THE SNOWMAN never mulls over the consequences of the violence shown. Val Kilmer is sprinkled in here and there as another alcoholic detective trying to solve the disappearance of a young woman. J.K. Simmons comes and goes as Arve Stop, a highly suspicious and lecherous businessman with a fervor for taking photos of random women. These side character drive-bys further contribute to a scattered collection of dramatic scenes that results in an extremely anticlimactic final product. Crazy, genuinely frightening things happen, only for the film to impassively moves on with its bland storyline. There’s no drive, or heart, or any sort of glue to piece this mess of a film together.
A major missed opportunity lays with Bratt. Throughout the film, Bratt remains wary of Hole’s alcoholic tendencies and frequent blackouts, both of which make him an unreliable case lead, and posit that she may be better suited to take charge. But while Ferguson makes a valiant effort portraying the troubled but driven detective, she’s simply not given much to work with. One scene in which she describes the murders plays out something like this: “First kill. It was snowing. Second murder—snowing. And the third death? Yeah, it was snowing.” So what? You’re in the Norwegian winter.
How I felt after seeing this film
I don’t know if it’s too generous to say that Alfredson’s abomination had the potential to be a great thriller. Maybe I’m just biased because of Fassbender’s abs, but an amoral detective, a sadistic, mysterious killer, and a coldly unsettling but riveting setting are great jump-off points for any wannabe crime film. However, THE SNOWMAN takes any latent good in its premise and just tosses it out the window, instead focusing on—honestly, I don’t even know what it tries to focus on. The film begins to follow those involved in one murder, then completely tosses them away, only briefly mentioning them in dialogue here and there. It jumps from subplot to subplot—one about Hole’s messy relationship with his ex and her son, another about a murder that occurred decades ago—without ever neatly or skillfully tying up all the loose ends. It doesn’t even at try to deliver any greater message about the gruesome treatment of women in this film, an easy point of potential commentary, portraying the present sadism as tasteless eye-candy.
I read the logline for this movie on IMDb and could not stop giggling for 5 minutes: “Detective Harry Hole investigates the disappearance of a woman whose pink scarf is found wrapped around an ominous-looking snowman.” Damn. Prison changed Olaf. Though seriously—if I have to witness another slow camera pan to a dopey-looking snowman with excessively dramatic music blaring, I’m going to make like ice and melt away.
Verdict: Do Not Recommend