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The Snowman Movie Review

The Snowman (2017) movie poster The Snowman

Theatrical Release: October 20, 2017 / Running Time: 119 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Tomas Alfredson / Writers:Peter Straughan, Hossein Amini, Søren Sveistrup (screenplay); Jo Nesbø (novel)

Cast: Michael Fassbender (Harry Hole), Rebecca Ferguson (Katrine Bratt), Charlotte Gainsbourg (Rakel), Jonas Karlsson (Mathias), Michael Yates (Oleg), Ronan Vibert (Gunnar Hagen), J.K. Simmons (Arve Stop), Val Kilmer (Rafto), David Dencik (Vetlesen), Toby Jones (DC Svensson), Genevieve O'Reilly (Birte Becker), James D'Arcy (Filip Becker), Jeté Laurence (Joseph Becker), Adrian Dunbar (Frederik Aasen), Chloë Sevigny (Sylvia Ottersen, Ane Pedersen), Jakob Oftebro (DC Magnus Skarre), Leonard Heinemann (Boy), Sofia Helin (Boy's Mother), Peter Dalle (Uncle Jonas)


In the ten years since he began appearing in high-profile films with global appeal, Michael Fassbender has earned fame and respect. The 40-year-old Irish actor is not quite a household name, but two Oscar-nominated performances and lead roles in the X-Men and Alien series have pushed him to the brink of that. Fassbender enjoys enough fame
and respect to get above-the-title billing all to himself in The Snowman, which looks like a fall film to take seriously. Based on a bestselling novel, this thriller is directed by Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy helmer Tomas Alfredson and touts Martin Scorsese as an executive producer. But looks can be deceiving because this Fassbender vehicle is drawing some of the worst reviews of the season and has no chance of getting near any awards except maybe the infamous Razzies.

Adapted from the seventh of eleven and counting Norwegian crime novels by Jo Nesbø, this international production casts Fassbender as the gloriously named Harry Hole, a Norwegian police inspector who drinks a lot and tends to not show up at work for days on end. Solving murders is Harry's raison d'être, and he needs one right about now at this low, dark point of a life seemingly filled with them. Harry gets his wish when a string of women with children turn up murdered and decapitated. The murders are easy to link on account of the fact that each occurs near a two-sphered snowman and comes with a corresponding note to authorities from the killer.

Michael Fassbender stars as drifting police detective Harry Hole in "The Snowman."

Who is the killer? Harry Hole goes searching for that, as does Katrine Bratt (Rebecca Ferguson), the less seasoned partner assigned to work with him on the case. They pursue a number of leads which the film develops as possible suspects, including a wealthy businessman (J.K. Simmons, doing a convincing accent I can't begin to identify) leading the charge for Oslo to host the Winter Olympics again, and a doctor (David Dencik) who associates with him. In addition to work, Harry struggles to be a present father for Oleg (Michael Yates), the son of Harry's ex-girlfriend (Charlotte Gainsbourg), with whom he has no biological bond.

As you might surmise from the title, The Snowman is a chilly film, full of ice and snow. There's a tradition of this kind of Scandinavian crime thriller, one that includes Norway's original Insomnia (remade in America by Christopher Nolan) and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy. When done right, the atmosphere enhances the mystery. Here, though, it just kind of makes you want to bundle up and take a nap.

Snowman is a sleepy film that doesn't take joy in anything. Most of it can be discarded as red herring. A number of the characters and their worlds are merely introduced to throw your scent off the chase. That much is accomplished, but you'll wonder why when all is said and done and nothing adds up to anything greater. Were we really just wasting time on material designed to disarm and distract? That seems like remarkably uneconomical storytelling. In an unusual move, Alfredson has addressed the critical disdain his film has met by claiming that 10-15% of the screenplay, credited to Hossein Amini (Drive, Snow White and the Huntsman), Peter Straughan (Oscar-nominated for Tinker), and Søren Sveistrup (creator of the original Danish TV series "The Killing"), never even got filmed. That's one way to try to pass the blame for the film you are going to be held primarily responsible for.

"The Snowman" might be J.K. Simmons' tempo, but it probably won't be yours.

In fairness, Alfredson, whose breakthrough was the Swedish vampire drama Let the Right One In, never really had a chance of making this film as salient as it would have been in the hands of Scorsese, who was attached to direct this for a year and a half before moving onto his long-in-development passion project Silence. It's safe to say that Scorsese's Snowman
would have been more rewarding than Alfredson's is. But there are deep and glaring narrative problems that even maestro Scorsese would have either had to smooth out or make do with.

The Snowman is such an odd, meandering work. One moment you're riding a funicular with an unwell-looking Val Kilmer. The next you're watching Simmons play a suave tycoon whose hotel room his assistant invites Bratt to or Chloë Sevigny playing a sketchy pair of identical twins. It's often not clear when characters die who has perished and what has happened, which makes it awfully hard to invest in the mystery that seems to be the only thing that Harry Hole has to live for. The story seems to lend itself better to a short British TV series than a two-hour theatrical film, let alone one that was supposed to launch a franchise akin to the film adaptations of James Patterson's Alex Cross novels.

Fassbender commits to the role but can't help keep the film absorbing or prevent a few chuckles from coming about during especially ridiculous turns. There is no fame or respect to be gained here, but he's endured flops before (Assassin's Creed, The Light Between Oceans, The Counselor, Jonah Hex) and should have no difficulty rebounding with another turn as Magneto and whatever meaningful prestige projects continue to come his way.

Related Reviews:
Now in Theaters: Only the BraveBlade Runner 2049Wind River
Michael Fassbender: Steve JobsThe Light Between OceansThe CounselorSong to SongX-Men: First Class
Rebecca Ferguson: The Girl on the TrainLifeMission: Impossible - Rogue NationFlorence Foster Jenkins
Insomnia (1997) • The Killing: Season One
Written by Peter Straughan: The Men Who Stare at GoatsOur Brand Is Crisis | Written by Hossein Amini: Drive

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Reviewed October 21, 2017.

Text copyright 2017 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2017 Universal Pictures, Perfect World Pictures, Working Title, Another Park Film. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.