The Snowman (Review)

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This review is spoiler-free.

After a woman is kidnapped, Detective Harry Hole believes it to be the work of a notorious serial killer who dismembers his victims. His calling card? A snowman in the victim’s garden.
Harry, along with the help of cop Katrine Bratt, is determined to bring this killer to justice once and for all.

The film is based on Jo Nesbo’s best-selling thriller and having read the book myself, I was intrigued with how the book would be adapted. I went into this movie excited, the cast on paper was impressive, as was the director. But there was still a little apprehension inside of me knowing that the film had some well-publicised problems. Problem with the editors, reshoots and on set power struggles all had the potential to hurt the film. And I’m sad to say, they did.

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The film is pulled in too many different directions, and the tonal shifts and plot beats are, for the most part, very mistimed. The film lacks any real cohesion, and on too many occasions you can pick out the re-shoot scenes. Also, ‘the snowmen’ did not translate from page to screen in the way they might have hoped. It’s hard to shoot a snowman and make it look menacing, and one shot, in particular, lingers too long and it actually becomes comical. Not what you want from a gritty Nordic thriller.

To its credit, the film is not afraid to move away from the source material, albeit with baby steps. But overall it’s a gamble that doesn’t really pay off. The story and character changes they decided to make feel very forced and disjointed. Character motives and drives seem to have little to no logic to them, and they shift in different directions so quickly that the effect is very jarring.

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But the cast right? That’s got to save the movie? In a way it does.

Michael Fassbender does a decent job in the lead role, but he never really takes the role to the heights that it could have achieved. It wasn’t a phoned-in performance by any stretch, but he coasted along at times and that was a little disappointing. Rebecca Ferguson was similar in this respect, but overall was probably the film’s strongest character.

J.K Simmons, Chloë Sevigny and Toby Jones are all criminally underused. This was such a tragedy for a cast of this calibre. It may look great having these names on a poster, but leaving the cinema you might feel a little short-changed.

As for, the usual bankable, Charlotte Gainsbourg, well she definitely coasts through the movie, and mainly down to the script issues, ends up as a negative on the film. Val Kilmer was coming out of more serious offscreen issues to deal with during filming. And while it was nice to see him back on the big screen, the issue of some very noticeable dubbing did nothing to help him out.

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As for director Tomas Alfredson, he shoots this movie beautifully. He does his best to at least make the film visually stimulating. Which to be fair, is no easy task given the white backdrop of the movie. But yet again it is the script that hinders the film the most, and before the final act of the film you’ve worked it all out (even if you haven’t rad the book). This leaves thirty minutes or more of frustration as you wait for the film to reach its conclusion.

While there are many negatives to The Snowman, it is never boring. It’s shot well and for the most part, well acted. But the many negatives hold the film back from being something much more enjoyable. Would I recommend it to a friend? Probably, yes. But it’s also a film that you can catch later when it comes out on home release. It does not have enough redeeming qualities to make this movie a ‘must see’ on the big screen.

The Snowman is a film that never lives up to its potential, with more negatives than positives. While the film does get some things right, it is constantly held back by a ropey script and some strange character storytelling. 

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