Sonic Cinema

Sounds, Visions and Insights by Brian Skutle

The Snowman

Grade : D Year : 2017 Director : Tomas Alfredson Running Time : 1hr 59min Genre : , ,
Movie review score

It occurred to me in watching “The Snowman” that I like when a thriller has snow as a backdrop. I didn’t really think about it much watching “Wind River” earlier, although I remember thinking that film used the snow effectively, but it came to mind watching Tomas Alfredson’s thriller because I actually wished I was watching a better movie set against snow. (Alfredson’s instant classic horror drama, 2008’s “Let the Right One In,” comes immediately to mind.) The idea of blood against snow is a powerful image. The idea of really having to follow your tracks, or you’ll get lost, is haunting. The idea of it coming down during a moment of dramatic tension is evocative. “The Snowman,” with that title, no less, wastes all of these possibilities.

The film is based on a book by Jo Nesbø, and it’s part of a series about detective Harry Hole. Harry is an alcoholic, and has a difficult time connecting to people. I don’t see much else in terms of a hook for the character, and that’s particularly disheartening because Michael Fassbender seems wasted in this role. Nothing in his background explains why he is like he is, because we don’t get much in the way of background. When the film begins, we see a young boy witness his mother sleeping with his uncle, his mother chasing the uncle down in a car, which goes onto a frozen lake, and the mother drowns. If you’re familiar with the book, I’m sure you already know how this plays into the film, but for someone not familiar with the source materiel, I thought it might provide background as to why Harry is the way he is, especially with a former girlfriend (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and her son, Oleg (Michael Yates). Not quite, and that’s only part of the issue with the story that’s about to unfold as women begin disappearing, and Harry teams up with a determined cop (Rebecca Ferguson) to try and solve the case.

The posters for this film, focusing on the snowy terrain and the snowmen that kind of play a part in the killer’s pathology, are fantastic and evocative, which I can also say about the way Alfredson shoots Norway with cinematographer Dion Beebe, and the score by composer Marco Beltrami does a decent job, as well. But it will not be long into this film before you start to see a pattern of narrative incoherence wash over the film. This. Movie. Makes. No. Sense. (A recent revelation by Alfredson that a significant chunk of the screenplay didn’t get shot- about 10-15%- makes this production feel even more dire.) How a major studio allowed this to be released without going back and going, “Maybe we need to rethink things,” is jaw-dropping, especially considering the considerable talent involved with this production. (In addition to those already mentioned, there is Martin Scorsese, who was once attached to the film as director, as executive producer, and a cast that also includes J.K. Simmons, Toby Jones, James D’Arcy and, no joke, Val Kilmer, looking gaunt after a bout with throat cancer, and sounding not like him at ALL.) All of these actors are involved in the mystery at some point, but you will honestly have no clue as to how until the film almost accidentally reveals things later in the movie. This movie is, possibly, one of the biggest narrative disasters a major studio has intentionally released as a “serious” drama in recent memory. I would argue, however, with anyone accusing this of being “The Room” of serial killer thrillers, however, because yeah, as a narrative neither makes a lick of sense, but at least the “drama” of “The Room” was pitched as such that the awful performances make it hilarious to watch. “The Snowman” is so sedate and inert in its acting and drama that there’s no entertainment value to have. How that happened with the collection of talent involved, and a major studio backing it, is almost as baffling as the connection this film has to the titular creations.

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