Time: 119 Minutes
Age Rating: Graphic violence, horror, offensive language & content that may disturb
Michael Fassbender as Detective Harry Hole
Rebecca Ferguson as Katrine Bratt
Charlotte Gainsbourg as Rakel Fauke
Val Kilmer as Gert Rafto
J. K. Simmons as Arve Støp
Toby Jones as Investigator Svenson
Director: Tomas Alfredson
For Detective Harry Hole (Michael Fassbender), the death of a young woman during the first snowfall of winter feels like anything but a routine homicide. His investigation leads him to “The Snowman Killer,” an elusive sociopath who continuously taunts Hole with cat-and-mouse games. As the vicious murders continue, Harry teams up with a brilliant recruit (Rebecca Fergusson) to try and lure the madman out of the shadows before he can strike again.
I remember The Snowman being one of my most anticipated films of 2017, however upon its release, I heard it was utterly disastrously bad. I had been meaning to getting around to it sometime, and I remember watching it sometime the past year or so, and while I don’t hate it as much as other people, it wasn’t good. It is a complete mess, and not a very interesting or entertaining mess at that. Only some of the performances and the decent cinematography are holding the movie back from being a failure on every front.
The Snowman is based off a novel of the same name, I never read the book, but I’ve heard it is great and is probably not done justice in the movie. The Snowman has a bizarre feeling throughout, and not really the one intended. Much of the way things are played seriously come across as being unintentionally hilarious. For one, the lead character played by Michael Fassbender is named Harry Hole, which immediately opens up so many obvious jokes. Harry Hole was the name of the lead character in the book, however it was pronounced something like Harry Holy, so they could’ve either pronounced it that way or just changed it, but they didn’t. However, the name thing is just a minor issue in a movie full of major issues. The script itself wasn’t that good, its full of familiar serial killer and thriller tropes and doesn’t really do anything unique, but the story itself isn’t particularly interesting either. The first act had me on board, it wasn’t good but it was starting out, so I was willing to give it a chance. However, at the end of the first act, I began to realise that the plot hadn’t really started yet. It threw in a bunch of subplots with a bunch of random characters, and it became incredibly hard to follow anything that was going on. There is a subplot with Val Kilmer that the movie would randomly cut to, it’s only later that you learn why he’s somewhat important, but it’s really distracting when he seemingly has nothing to do with the plot and it kept focussing on him. Then there’s also a subplot with J.K. Simmons and I don’t remember why the movie spent so much time with him. The Snowman is also not very engaging, it’s just tedious to watch. The 2 hour runtime feels closer to 2 hours and 30 minutes. I will say that the experience is improved by doing literally anything while watching it, so if you have a computer or phone in front of you while watching, it’s an alright way of watching it. The third act is incredibly rushed, and if the movie hadn’t already gone to its lowest point, it certainly did by then. When the killer was revealed, it wasn’t necessarily something I predicted, but it was also something I didn’t really care for. By the time the reveal happened I had lost any shred of interest in the plot, but I’m not entirely certain that the character got any setup or hints suggesting that they would be the killer. It’s also worth noting that the director admitted that there was a short filming schedule and that 10 to 15% of the script remained unfilmed, leading to narrative problems when editing commenced. While I’m sure that the film would’ve retained much of its problems even with the extra footage, it definitely would’ve made the movie at least more comprehensible than how it turned out. At the end they even try to tease a possible sequel with Fassbender’s Hairy Hole (since there’s a book series featuring him, The Snowman is not just a one-off) which probably won’t happen.
This movie has such a great cast and doesn’t manage to use any of them to their fullest potential. Most of them aren’t bad and they are trying their best, however they aren’t great either. Michael Fassbender’s Harry Hole is disjointed, and I don’t mean that in a good way. His character is an alcoholic but there’s no real reason given as to why he is one. Everyone also keeps mentioning how he’s some kind of legendary detective, but we get nothing to see to really back it up. There’s no real defined character for him and he is all over the place, in that it feels like the writers didn’t know what to do with him. Fassbender played him as best as possible given what he had to work with, but needless to say this is far from his best work. Rebecca Ferguson is also the other lead in the movie and also does what she can, however she also doesn’t have much to work with and can only do so much. Charlotte Gainsbourg is pretty good as Hairy Hole’s ex-husband, but again there’s really only so much she could do in her role. The rest of the cast of characters seem out of place and pointless. J.K. Simmons is here playing some shady business tycoon, who I guess is one of the suspects or something (it’s hard to remember), but he doesn’t really add to anything. Not to mention he’s doing this random Scandinavian accent that really does nothing to help his performance at all. Toby Jones is also here for some reason, even though his character could be played by literally anyone. No one in the rest of the cast is really worth mentioning with the exception of one notable actor, and that is Val Kilmer in a supporting role as some detective that the film would cut to occasionally. Kilmer is not looking quite like himself, and it’s not from intentional makeup, he was actually suffering from a form of mouth cancer. That probably explains why his mouth is not moving that well and why there is terrible and out of sync dubbing, with someone’s voice that is clearly not his. Maybe he was put into the movie as like a favour but for his own sake it might’ve been better if they got someone else to play the role.
I like the director Tomas Alfredson, who also made Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Let the Right One In (the latter of which I haven’t seen yet). He’s clearly a more than capable director, yet for some reason parts of the direction just wasn’t working here. The cinematography by Dion Beebe is one of the best parts of the movie, it actually looks quite stunning, especially in the scenes taking place amongst a lot of snow. It does elevate the movie just a bit, so it’s not an ugly looking movie. The music choices were terrible, most of the score is fine if generic and uninspired. As for the non-score bits, there are some other songs that randomly make an appearance and don’t fit in at all with the movie. The editing in many of the scenes is terrible, the editing between the scenes is jarring and doesn’t fit together but even some scenes have been cut up very roughly. Many of the ‘tense’ scenes are just disjointed that they’re hard to get into.
The Snowman is such wasted potential, and I’m not sure how this movie ended up the misfire it was. At best it’s an average but good looking and passable thriller, at worst it’s a disastrous, laughable mess of a film, that shouldn’t have been approved for release. I guess it might be okay to watch if it’s on in the background as that’s what I did, and I didn’t hate it that way (I can only imagine what it was like seeing it in the cinema). However, if you are like a fan of the book or are genuinely looking forward to the movie, you’ll be disappointed with this movie. I don’t put this up to American adaptations ruining the book or whatever, after all David Fincher did well adapting The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, another Swedish thriller. Hopefully, The Snowman will get the proper live action treatment that it deserves.