The Snowman (2017)

  • Time: 119 min
  • Genre: Crime | Drama | Horror
  • Director: Tomas Alfredson
  • Cast: Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, James D’Arcy, Charlotte Gainsbourg


When an elite crime squad’s lead detective investigates the disappearance of a victim on the first snow of winter, he fears an elusive serial killer may be active again. With the help of a brilliant recruit, the cop must connect decades-old cold cases to the brutal new one if he hopes to outwit this unthinkable evil before the next snowfall.

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  • Norwegian crime writer Jo Nesbø’s Harry Hole novels have sold 23 million copies in 40 languages. Couple that with the popularity of the Scandinavian crime wave genre in film, television and literature in the last decade, it’s no surprise that a film adaptation of The Snowman, the seventh novel in Nesbø’s Hole series, has come into fruition. What is surprising is how poorly executed the film is considering the talent involved both in front of and behind the camera.

    Michael Fassbender plays Harry, the broodingly brilliant but self-destructive Oslo Crime Squad detective first introduced as he awakens from yet another drunken stupor. Predictably his behaviour has caused problems on both the personal and professional fronts. He maintains a fragile relationship with his ex Rakel (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and her teenage son Oleg (Michael Yates), for whom he feels a fatherly duty even if he continually fails to follow through on paternal obligations. His maverick ways, not to mention his drunken absences, have isolated him from his colleagues though his superior (Ronan Vibert) still harbours a modicum of sympathy for this wayward soul.

    Harry wishes for a case to work on and, unfortunately for the women of Oslo, his wish is soon fulfilled. There’s a serial killer on the loose and his signature is dismembering women and leaving a snowman by the murder site. Aside from all being women, the Snowman’s victims are also mothers whose children have doubtful paternity. Harry is partnered with newly transferred detective Katrine (Rebecca Ferguson), who may have personal motivations for her pursuit of the Snowman, which may or may not have some relation to another case that was investigated by dissipated detective Gert Rafto.

    Can a performance be Photoshopped? Val Kilmer as Rafto certainly is a strong case for this seeming impossibility. Never mind the borderline Elephant Man-like visage, his acting feels grafted on; so, too, does his voice. The flashbacks in which he appears are just plain jarring, but the incongruity isn’t exclusive to his scenes. The Snowman feels a halfhearted pastiche of the better examples of its genre. Its beats are glaringly obvious, leeching sequences of any suspense, and its overripe mood verges on the giallo but without the giallo’s unabashed embrace of its luridness.

    Director Tomas Alfredson (Let the Right One In, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) has been vocal about issues resulting from the film’s rushed production schedule, which meant that 10 – 15% of the screenplay by Hossein Amini, Peter Straughan and Søren Sveistrup was not filmed during principal photography and thus necessitating reshoots and additional filming. Yet the script itself is by-the-numbers, lacking in either subtlety or characterisation. Alfredson does what he can to offset this by offering atmospherics and wasting a whole array of actors such as J.K. Simmons, Toby Jones and Chloë Sevigny in supporting roles.

    The sole survivors of this disappointment are Fassbender and Ferguson, the former delivering his trademark intensity and the latter imbuing Katrine with warmth and a no-nonsense resolve.

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