Updated: Feb 5, 2020
The Snowman is a detective mystery thriller with very little detecting, not much of a mystery and no thrills. A dull whodunit with very little substance or style, it is a very boring experience.
The film takes place in Oslo, Norway and focuses on Detective Harry Hole (two time Oscar nominee Michael Fassbender) who teams up with Katrine Bratt (Rebecca Ferguson, from the most recent, and next, Mission Impossible film) to investigate the disappearance and, eventually, murder of several women.
Its pace is extremely slow. At first I thought it was taking its time introducing its story and characters to produce tension later in the film. But, once it passed the halfway point of its interminable 114 minute running time (not counting the end credits) and potential suspects were still being introduced, I realized that it was not actually building to anything. This was it. It had no story to develop. We watch Harry, Katrine and the rest of the very large supporting cast do their not very interesting thing for a while, one of them is revealed to be the culprit, there is a confrontation, and then it is over. There is no passion or intensity. It all just feels so rote.
Just for fun, let’s take a look at the rest of the cast. There is Charlotte Gainsbourg as Harry’s ex-girlfriend, Rakel, Michael Yates as her sullen teenage son, Oleg, and Jonas Karlsson as her current boyfriend Mathias. J.K. Simmons (an Oscar winner in 2015 for Best Supporting Actor in Whiplash) drops by as a businessman. Val Kilmer shows up in flashbacks as a detective on a previous, and possibly connected, case. Additionally, Toby Jones (who also showed up three months ago in Atomic Blonde), Chloe Sevigny (a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nominee all the way back in 2000 for Boys Don’t Cry) and James D’Arcy (from this Summer’s Dunkirk) all show up in small roles. It was directed by Tomas Alfredson (director of 2008 Swedish horror hit Let the Right One In and 2011 spy drama Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) and adapted (from a 2007 Norwegian novel by Jo Nesbo) by Peter Straughan (an Oscar nominee in 2012 for Best Adapted Screenplay for co-writing Tinker Tailor Solder Spy), Hossein Amini (an Oscar nominee for Best Adapted Screenplay in 1998 for The Wings of the Dove) and Soren Sveistrup. I decided to list all of these names so you can see that even talented people are capable of making a lazy, derivative movie.
There is really not much more to say about The Snowman. It is not that it is poorly made or confusing or offensive. It is a competently made film by a group of professionals. But nobody involved seems to have put much effort into it. One of the most exciting things about viewing a movie like this is playing along with the protagonist and trying to guess the identity of the villain. But since there is not much of an investigation and the film is not really about its characters, I grew restless and stopped caring. While it is certainly possible to guess the identity of the killer, it is also pointless. Their identity is completely arbitrary. Much like The Snowman as a whole. It exists to give people something to stare at for two hours. If nobody cared about making it, then there is no reason for anybody to see it.
1 out of 5
Michael Fassbender as Harry Hole
Rebecca Ferguson as Katrine Bratt
Charlotte Gainsbourg as Rakel
Michael Yates as Oleg
Jonas Karlsson as Mathias
J.K. Simmons as Arve Stop
David Dencik as Vetlesen
Val Kilmer as Rafto
Toby Jones as DC Svensson
Directed by Tomas Alfredson
Screenplay by Peter Straughan, Hossein Amini and Soren Sveistrup