The Snowman is a huge disappointment. The film is painfully slow and disjointed with a nonsensical plot. The mystery at its core seems to have been strung together with masking tape. It boggles the mind that a well-regarded source novel, fantastic cast, and veteran production team ended up with such an unmitigated disaster. It is the latest example of how great ingredients do not always lead to a tasty cake. The Snowman is abysmal at best.
The Snowman takes place in present day Oslo, Norway; but flashbacks in time periodically. Michael Fassbender stars as Detective Harry Hole. He’s a blackout drunk, but established as “legendary” investigator. Rebecca Ferguson costars as Katrine Bratt, a new detective chasing a mysterious cold case. A young mother disappears. The pair investigates, but have few clues except for a snowman left outside her home. This coincides with an anonymous, cryptic letter Hole received from “the snowman”. Another murder leads the detectives to believe a dormant serial killer has returned.
The Snowman has horrendous pacing. The film sputters along like the intermittent snowfall depicted. It starts off with a somewhat interesting opening scene, then squanders that momentum with a protracted set-up. What follows is a slew of muddled character introductions. By the time the actual killings start, I had lost pretty much all interest in this film. The reveal of the killer also lands with a thud. It is an idiotic finale that drags The Snowman down even further.
The Snowman uses flashbacks to tell key parts of the story. This is where the poor editing really stands out. There is a clunky feel to the narrative. The characters look like they’re bumbling around in the cold. Then in a snap, you’re in an earlier time period, watching other characters pretty much do the same thing. There’s zero flow or rhythm to their actions. This is quite puzzling when you consider the immense talent at the editing deck. The Snowman is edited by Oscar winner Thelma Schoonmaker. She’s the editor for Martin Scorsese, who is also an executive producer on this film. I can’t fathom what happened in post-production to result in such a poor editing job.
Director Tomas Alfredson (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) has to shoulder the blame for this dreck. He’s a good director that has unfortunately turned in a stinker. I have not read the Harry Hole novels by Jo Nesbo. The Snowman is the seventh in a series. They are hugely popular, so I’ll assume they must be compelling to garner a sizable following. I’ll also go on a limb and suppose the adapted screenplay must have been intriguing. It was able to attract on all-star cast with Toby Jones, Charlotte Gainsburg, Chloe Sevigny, and J.K. Simmons in supporting roles. The Snowman has several red herrings meant to misdirect from the real antagonist. Alfredson fails to portray these characters and situations successfully. They end up being outliers that add to the runtime without having a dent on the actual plot. This end around approach may have worked in the book, but is a complete failure here.
From Universal Pictures, The Snowman is one of the worst films of the year. It is poorly made, utterly wastes a talented cast, and is mind-numbing to sit through. There were points in The Snowman where the audience started breaking out in laughter every time a snowman appeared. That’s not the reaction you expect from a purportedly serious crime drama. I would suggest reading the novel if the subject matter appeals to you. The film is terrible and not worth two hours of time to see.