Director: Tomas Alfredson
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Rebeca Ferguson, Jonas Karlsson, Charlotte Gainsbourg, A.K. Simmons and Val Kilmer
Running Time: 1 Hr, 59 Mins
I was hoping The Snowman was going to be a slick, smart and stylish thriller just in time for Halloween. I was hoping for a thorough exploration of the darkest pits of the human psyche, a journey through the narrow space between sinister depravity and the whispers of our better angels. I even included it on my ten most anticipated movies of this fall and winter. What I got was a meandering catastrophe of a movie that failed on every level.
To say The Snowman misses the mark would be to imply that the bullet even left the chamber. This movie is easily the biggest misfire of the year.
Once the pride of the Oslo police department and a detective of national renown in Norway, Detective Harry Hole (Michael Fassbender) is a mess. He drinks himself into a stupor every night and after waking up in gutters and public parks, he drifts aimlessly through his days, burning through the tattered remains of his professional credibility and alienating his (very) few loved ones further.
But when recently transferred Detective Katherine Bratt (Rebecca Ferguson) catches a missing persons case, Harry gets caught up in an escalating web of personal vendettas and mysterious murders. As the secrets of those around him come to light and the mystery surrounding a depraved murderer deepens, Harry begins to fear for those around him the most.
I usually like to try and begin a move review by focusing on something good or favourable, something that made it worth the price of admission. Movies are kind of like kids, they all have at least one redeeming quality, a sliver of hope no matter how deep its buried beneath the ugly. Not this time.
There is absolutely nothing noteworthy about The Snowman. Not a single thing about in the entire movie manages to be even mediocre. Not the direction, not the story, not the acting- nothing.
The Snowman doesn’t have anything resembling pacing. It tediously stumbles from scene to often pointless scene for two hours (which feels closer to a week). You thought the pacing in Blade Runner 2049 was bad? At least that movie had some stunning visual effects to look at in the meantime, some brilliant set pieces to admire, a layered story to savour and some nuanced, subtle performances to fill the time. The only thing The Snowman is full of is bland failure.
And the pacing isn’t even the worst thing about the film. Not by a long shot. I’m tempted to read Joe Nesbo’s book, just to see how far the movie fell from the book’s grace. There is simply no way any self respecting author, editor or book publisher would let such a rambling, underwhelming story loose into the world.
The plot wanders aimlessly trying to establish one narrative before losing interest and jumping to another, failing to lay the groundwork for anything in the process. It probably tries to establish half a dozen or so plot lines that it just abandons while it stumbles along. The characters are emotionally empty vessels that are impossible to forge any emotional connection with. You don’t care when any of them are in jeopardy and The Snowman’s attempts at deep storytelling are flatter than a month’s worth of pancakes. Its a yawn fest from beginning to end.
I’ve never seen such a collection of decent actors fail to contribute anything memorable. Sometimes even the worst movie will have a memorable turn or two to salvage it, a performance that soothes the burning failure of the rest of the movie. That isn’t anywhere close to the case with The Snowman. The actors are little more than uninterested puppets wandering around the bleak, frozen, Norwegian landscape.
And every second of Val Kilmer’s screen time is pure cringe worthy.
In fact, very little energy our thought were invested in the characters from script to screen. They’re motivations are never clear, and in the case of both Hole and Bratt its implied that they’ve endured previous tragedies that have impacted and damaged them deeply. But Snowman only teases a few vague details about Bratt, odd considering that Hole is the primary protagonist. And almost nothing anyone does makes any sense.
I really like Micheal Fassbender and Rebecca Ferguson but both have made some terrible choices lately. This is yet another embarrassing disaster for Fassbender after Assassin’s Creed and Alien: Covenant, while Ferguson will need to do some serious career maintenance as well. Her last two films on her resume were the underwhelming (and box office embarrassments) Life and The Girl on the Train. And Scorsese (who filled the role of an executive producer after backing away from the directing chores) may want to yank his name of this disaster as well.
What’s really disturbing is that even bad movies have at least some potential swimming just below the surface or dancing just out of reach. But there isn’t even a glimmer of something better in The Snowman. No redemption, no grain of hope, nothing but an empty husk. The story fails to emerge because it has no heartbeat, not because of poor execution (but don’t worry, there’s plenty of poor executing to go around). This movie doesn’t even try to be something better than the mess it is. The story is as uninterested as the actors are.
The Snowman simply isn’t worth either your time or your money. It’s a black mark on everyone involved with it and whoever gave this movie a stamp of approval should probably be shown the door. Give this movie a very, very wide berth.