Genre: Crime, Drama, Horror
Directed by: Tomas Alfredson
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, Chloë Sevigny, Val Kilmer, Charlotte Gainsbourg
Cinema is dominated by a score of brilliant yet unorthodox detectives with their fair share of personal problems. So it was really only a matter of time before Jo Nesbø’s Harry Hole made his way to screen. He’s yet another seemingly brilliant, yet unconventional detective who chain-smokes, likes his drink a little too much, and has plenty of issues to contend with. Anyone familiar with crime fiction will instantly recognise the type. But when a film such as The Snowman boasts the likes of Michael Fassbender in the lead role and Tomas Alfredson (Let The Right One in, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) calling the shots, expectations tend to be high.
Based on the seventh book in the series, the story follows hard drinking Det. Harry Hole who teams up with brilliant new recruit Katrine Bratt (Rebecca Ferguson) to investigate the disappearance of a woman during the first snow of winter. Soon, the pair discover that a deadly serial killer is at work; a serial killer with a penchant for building creepy looking snowmen. Both Hole and Bratt must decipher and connect old cold-case files to the brutal new slayings if they’re to uncover and outwit the killer before he has a chance to strike again.
Going into the movie, I wasn’t familiar with Nesbø’s novels aside from the fact that a lot of people have read them, and a lot of people seem to like them. I’m sure that if I were to read them myself, I would perhaps find enjoyment in their pulp filled pages. I mean, I would at least hope that the books are far more enjoyable than the bloated mess that is this turgid and depressing adaptation.The Snowman is without doubt one of the big disappointments of the year. Dull, clichéd and unnecessarily convoluted, it veers off on tangents and plot threads that don’t really go anywhere. It’s a bewildering mess of a movie that probably would’ve benefited from being given the TV miniseries treatment rather than bungled into a two-hour feature film.
One of the big problems with the movie is that it seems as if Alfredson – along with a trio of credited screenwriters – is uncertain about which way to take the film, pulling it in different directions without much focus. The central serial killer plot never feels as urgent as it does in say, something like David Fincher’s Seven. Just as it seems like the main plot might be heating up, the pace suddenly slows and the story takes a break to deal with Harry’s personal problems involving his ex-girlfriend (a wasted Charlotte Gainsbourg) and her teenage son. It’s a plot thread that, while important, never feels so because of the clumsy way it seems to have been slotted in.
Likewise, a strand involving Rebecca Ferguson’s Bratt feels forced, as if the filmmakers suddenly realised they needed some backstory. It also doesn’t help that this backstory involves Val Kilmer in what must surely be one of the most bizarre cameos I’ve seen in any film in a long time. For one thing, Val Kilmer doesn’t look like Val Kilmer, nor does he sound like Val Kilmer, as it seems he’s become the victim of one of the worst dubbing sessions in movie history.It also doesn’t help that the film is needlessly long-winded, featuring a subplot involving JK Simmons’ Arve Støp, a sleazy tycoon who’s leading the campaign for bringing the Winter Games to Oslo; a plot thread that ends up going nowhere fast, with multiples strands left dangling without much resolution.
As for Harry Hole himself, well, like I said, he comes across as yet another brilliant but unorthodox detective with more than his fair share of issues. Fassbender is fine in the role, but there’s nothing to set Hole apart from the wealth of other troubled detectives that are currently populating the TV/film landscape.
Hopes to begin a franchise will no doubt rest on the film’s box office performance, but they’ll have to do a lot better if they’re going to win audiences over. The Snowman is an overwhelming non-event that’s sure to be disappointing to existing fans of Nesbø’s books.