Tomas Alfredson (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) returns to the directorial seat with The Snowman, this year’s second crime thriller set in a dim winter landscape following Taylor Sheridan’s summer hit, Wind River. Produced by Martin Scorsese, this weekend’s release, however, was promoted to be the biggest thriller of the year, with a gripping narrative based on the terrifying best-seller by Jo Nesbø, but it came nowhere near the quality of Wind River. Following Michael Fassbender as Detective Harry Hole, he sets out to stop a serial killer who has come out of hiding and is terrorizing women in this Nordic setting. With other big names in the cast credits, including Rebecca Ferguson, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Val Kilmer, and J. K. Simmons, this could have easily had the strength of Criminal Minds, so it came as a surprise that the film turned out to be an incoherent disaster.
‘It happened very abruptly,’ he said. ‘Suddenly we got notice that we had the money and could start the shoot in London […] Our shoot time in Norway was way too short. We didn’t get the whole story with us and when we started cutting we discovered that a lot was missing… It’s like when you’re making a big jigsaw puzzle and a few pieces are missing so you don’t see the whole picture.’
This is a strange revelation, considering many scenes in the trailer are missing from the final product, including a chilling phone call from “The Snowman” to Harry Hole. The film’s incredibly awful editing choices created a film that was neither scary nor thrilling, but rather, unintentionally hilarious. This killer’s schtick is to build a snowman in front of the home of his victims, and the shots of these snowmen set to ominous music resulted in giggles from the audience rather than terror. The mystery surrounding the killer loses its suspense with a final reveal that will leave the audience with less of a shock and more utter confusion and comic relief.
Though he’s the main character, Fassbender plays a man with zero personality or development. Despite being hailed as a legendary detective, Hole doesn’t do much detecting, nor does he seem interested in pursuing the case. Most of the gritty work and crime-solving is done by Rebecca Ferguson’s character, Katrine Bratt, who is one of the only highlights of the film. Katrine’s drive to solve the case comes from her father, Detective Rafto’s (Val Kilmer), failure nine years earlier. Kilmer delivers one of the strangest and inessential performances in recent memory. Not only does he have maybe 10 lines, but his mouth doesn’t move in sync with his dialogue making the audience wonder if his audio was either pre-recorded or dubbed by another actor entirely.
The film’s narrative lacks coherence with key scenes likely left on the cutting room floor. It is ridden with plot holes, including the fate of Ferguson’s character, which remains a mystery going into the third act, what certain side characters (one being the Winter Olympics) have to do with the story, and why the film dedicates so much time to J.K. Simmons, who ends up having no ramifications on the plot. During the climactic reveal of the killer, he gets into a fight with Hole, resulting in the detective losing a finger. However, considering how horribly shot this action sequence is, it, much like the rest of the film, will leave you wondering–what just happened?
The only positive that the film has to offer is its picturesque cinematography of Norway which, thankfully, manages to distract the audience enough so they don’t leap out of their seat out of frustration and walk out of the theatre.
The Snowman is a film part of an often forgotten genre in a Hollywood obsessed with remakes and superheroes, but while its summer successor, Wind River, creates a powerful and satisfying conclusion to its murder-mystery, Tomas Alfredson’s latest presents the most laughable conclusion in recent memory.
(Featured Image: The Snowman, Universal Pictures)