Detective Harry Hole (Michael Fassbender) investigates the disappearance of a woman whose pink scarf is found wrapped around an ominous-looking snowman.
Review by Louise Keller:
A stunning wintry white Norwegian setting, Michael Fassbender as unorthodox crime detective Harry Hole and a Jo Nesbo plot involving a serial killer who strikes when it snows, is enough to whet the appetite for lovers of the genre. Tomas Alfredson's The Snowman is not for the fainthearted: it's gruesome and graphic. But while the film keeps us on our toes for its two-hour duration, the screenplay is an obtuse jigsaw, whose characters are a bit of a muddle. There's little chemistry between any of the players and the result fails to satisfy, acting only as a tease for what might have been.
After a chilling and unforgettable opening sequence involving an abusive man, a child with learning problems and his distressed mother, the film jumps forward in time to introduce us to Harry. Harry is Norway's answer to Sherlock Holmes and Dirty Harry combined. We are told he is a legend, but we see none of his brilliance - just the results of his self-destructive behaviour. The plot involves the brutal killing and dismembering of a series of women - all involving paternity issues of a child. A snowman with coffee bean mouth is left as a marker at the crime scene.
Fassbender is always interesting to watch, while Charlotte Gainsbourg brings plenty to her role of Harry's on/off squeeze. Swedish actress Rebecca Ferguson as Harry's police force colleague has all the goods for some sizzle but the screenplay relies too much on tins of red herrings that do little but confuse. The casting is all excellent, though: Toby Jones and Chloe Sevigny in small roles, J.K. Simmons with clipped English accent as the debauched philanthropist who is head of the winter games bid, Val Kilmer in a manic, indecipherable detective role, James D'Arcy as a moody grieving husband, David Dencik as a creepy doctor and Jonas Karlsson as Gainsbourg's latest boyfriend. The pity is that none of these characters are well enough drawn and we never feel as though we get to know any of them well enough.
Marco Beltrami's music score is effective and it is the snowy, icy setting that is the film's most authentic character - beautifully shot by cinematographer, Dion Beebe. Director Alfredson (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, 2011) brings an appealing Nordic sensitivity to the proceedings but the screenplay is the spoiler.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
I love the fact that the screenplay and the direction assume an alert, invested audience. There is no dumbing down, or overt exposition. It's a jigsaw, with some pieces unwilling to fit until the last minute. This is also a negative, though, because if you drop one piece (imperfect attention, say) you might be struggling to see the jigsaw taking shape.
Another achievement is the film's authentic sense of its Nordic social setting, despite the cast of Anglo actors. This is usually a problem for films that are set in a specific cultural environment, but Tomas Alfredson somehow pulls it off.
The story is complex, but the landscapes are stunning. The performances are great, but most characterisations are slight. The tension is terrific but the plot is unwieldy.
Despite the fact that Michael Fassbender's Harry Hole is an incomplete character - like an unfinished painting - the performance keeps us involved and interested. He is an anti hero figure, but he probably works better in print, where the reader can fill in the gaps. It's the kind of role that Clint Eastwood might have inhabited, bringing a deeper character interior to the screen, thanks to his powerful ability to suggest.
Of all the cast, it is Val Kilmer whose strange, almost unrecognisable physicality captures our attention, but also leaves us frustrated; what the hell is this guy doing in this film? A bit of Nordic eccentricity, I suspect.
The film has a riveting sense of doom, a powderkeg of tension and some horrifically unique elements that set it apart.
Email this article
SNOWMAN, THE (M)
CAST: Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, Chloe Sevigny, Val Kilmer, J. K. Simmons, David Dencik, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Jamie Clayton, James D'Arcy, Toby Jones
PRODUCER: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Peter Gustafsson, Robyn Slovo
DIRECTOR: Tomas Alfredson
SCRIPT: Hossein Amini, Peter Straughan
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Dion Beebe
EDITOR: Claire Simpson
MUSIC: Marco Beltrami
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Maria Djurkovic
RUNNING TIME: 125 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Universal
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 19, 2017