Everyone likes a good detective story. It’s full of suspense, interesting complex characters, mystery and grizzly murder to sweeten the detail. No other area of the globe crafts more gritty and disturbing crime dramas than that of the Scandinavians. Whether it is because of the long winter nights or the vast expanses of snow-covered tundra, the Scandinavians, have a uniquely dark perspective. One Norwegian has captured the global imagination with his series of books following detective Harry Hole, his name is Jo Nesbo, and America has adapted one of his most famous novels, The Snowman.
An alcoholic mess of a police detective Harry Hole is drawn into a governmental conspiracy, and the hunt for an elusive serial killer dubbed the Snowman after a recruit, Katrine Bratt, with a connection to the case brings him her research.
The Snowman is marketed as a simple cops and robbers story, a police procedural as the shambolic detective chases down the effective and calculating serial killer. However, this is both a perfect example of excellent miss marketing and a structurally awful film. It is nothing like the clear story that trailers suggest, instead this is a film that tries to cram all the cliches of a Scandinavian detective TV show into 2 hours. You have a broken, damaged lead with his estranged broken, damaged family. A broken and damaged recruit investigating a broken and damaged killer that is connected to a broken and damaged figure of authority. It is incredibly underwritten with each element there just because.
I have a philosophy when it comes to stories; don’t needlessly over complicate them. If you have a decent premise, like a police investigation, then make that the key part of your story, not the other things like countless subplots that lead absolutely nowhere, involving characters that we do not care about. For instance, the story is completely derailed with an awful inclusion of strange sexual conspiracy.
Also, when you are conducting one of these investigation films, you want the audience to be part of that investigation. Though they won’t be able to guess at the killer’s identity until the end, upon second viewing it should be possible to tell who the killer was by placing visual clues in the film. However, The Snowman, because it is too busy with other elements, leaves this out entirely because it wants a scene where Harry Hole and his son go to a music concert.
There are similarly obvious technical errors, like a terrible editing style with multiple poor edits that can jar you out of the experience as badly as the terrible screenplay. The film also suffers from bland cinematography and a song choice to mark the presence of the serial killer that may suggest that this film is just trolling its audience.
The cast are cast afloat in a sea of pour writing, underdeveloped characters and interesting direction with Charlotte Gainsbourg, from Melancholia and Antichrist, quite literally giving the audience a pleading look before sinking into a monotony of tone and acting. Michael Fassbender is perhaps the only saving grace in this film but it is clear that he is in a different movie. There is a surprise appearance from Val Kilmer in a side plot that does not need to be there at all and the actor is not the same as the Val Kilmer who shone as Jim Morrison in The Doors. It is a real shame to see talented people waste their time with such a poor product, Director Tomas Alfredson directed Let the Right One In and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, two highly engaging films that are cleverly put together and show the strength of this artist, but here he, like Gainsbourg, J.K.Simmons and Toby Jones are just going through the motions.
Overall The Snowman is as insubstantial as its namesake and after this disappointing release will melt into the bargain section of any DVD store shelf, embarrassing those who made it, those who saw it and those who are thinking of buying it.
You can watch The Snowman in cinemas now