From the moment The Snowman begins, the direction by Tomas Alfredson is unclear. Weird cuts, poor acting and insufferable dialogue filled the theater. But hey, it’s the opening sequence — it’s only up from here, right?
The Snowman is adapted from the Jo Nesbø book that is one of many Harry Hole novels. The film is a basic and bland who-done-it film led by actors Michael Fassbender, who plays Detective Harry Hole, and Rebecca Ferguson, who’s also a detective working to crack the case for her own personal reasons. A killer is on the loose in Oslo, murdering men and women who fail to be a part of their child’s life. The premise isn’t terrible, really, but it’s the execution and writing that fails to hit a high note or any note at all.
Somewhere down the line the crew must’ve thrown their hands up in defeat because the end product is unconvincing and incredibly flawed. The film treats its story as a sprint rather than a marathon, not allowing me to settle into any role. When trying to pay attention to the acting on-screen, I get distracted, for instance, when Fassbender spews heavy-handed lines and “detective speak” every now and then to remind us that, hey, he can solve crimes! The writing is basic on every level, leaving crumbs for its supporting cast. Detective Hole’s counterpart, Katrine Bratt (Ferguson), feels completely weightless in this film, along with actors J.K. Simmons and Val Kilmer (P.S. Did any editors bother to try and sync up the audio with Kilmer’s first instance on camera? Yikes).
On a quick note: I’m beginning to question Fassbender’s body of work, as he’s becoming a good actor who’s taking terrible roles. Will this eventually make him a terrible actor? I don’t believe so, but I’m getting too used to associating him with dud roles. Nothing about his performance in this film screams “quality actor in a bad role,” either. He really couldn’t shine in any of his standalone moments, and his lack of motivation bled through the screen. It’s sad, considering his better roles as Lt. Archie Hicox in Inglourious Basterds and even his work with 12 Years a Slave.
Nothing about this film feels like a complete project. Composer Marco Beltrami worked on Scream, which was infinitely more ambient and suspenseful than The Snowman. What on earth happened down the line? With this film, the score does not aid in fueling scenes where tension should be present. Coupled with the choppy editing and jarring camera angels, it’s laughable how this passed the cutting floor. If even an ounce of Martin Scorsese’s genius was poured over this film — he was executive producer on this, and I feel his name was attached just for name’s sake — I think we’d get a much better film. Where’s the mystique, the suspense? What happened to the atmosphere hinted at in the trailer? It’s questions like these that I’m still asking a day later.
The screenplay has three writing credits: Peter Straughan, Hossein Amini and Søren Sveistrup. I’m not sure these three could write worse dialogue if they tried. During intimate scenes, where we’re supposed to understand each character’s motivations, we get fed hammy lines and oddly-timed events. I question why characters like J.K. Simmons’ even existed within the framework of this movie because he’s practically lifeless and a non-factor in the grand scheme of things.
The Snowman too often steps into the realm of “this-is-completely-unbelieveable.” Fassbender screaming in the middle of a snowy plain is unbelievable. The romance between him and his ex-wife in a sequence — unbelievable and a throwaway scene if I’ve ever seen one. His alcohol addiction — unbelievable and forced. Heck, the film even tries to force an inkling of a connection between him and Ferguson, with Fassbender laying on top of her and refusing, at first, to get up when asked. It was awkward and did nothing for the film.
Too often did I raise my hands ever-so slightly and whisper, “What in the world?” There’s no method in this madness. It doesn’t help that the CGI is completely noticeable, either. When someone’s head is blown off by our mysterious killer, for instance, the CGI blood and body was poor enough to bring me out of the experience.
If there’s one positive takeaway to poach from this mediocre film, it’s that I didn’t guess the killer. However, I wasn’t motivated to think during this one and was quite frankly bored halfway through the film.
This film is like getting a cheap Slushie from a nearby gas station. Once you arrive home after a 20-minute commute, what once looked presentable is melted and a big mess. Unlike cheap Slushies, however, The Snowman isn’t sweet at all.
I was invited to an advanced screening thanks to Sly Fox and Universal Pictures. ❤
“The Snowman” is rated R, runs 1 hour and 59 minutes and opens in theaters on Oct. 20, 2017.