Tom Lotherington, Contributor.
This film had the potential to be an engaging, tense, and beautifully shot mystery crime thriller, which was perhaps why I felt so overwhelmingly disappointed when I left the cinema. Based on Jo Nesbo’s highly successful novel, with competent Director Tomas Alfredson (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) at the helm and a well-edited trailer (which included the only interesting parts of the film), The Snowman could have been a dark horse for the upcoming awards season. However, what followed was a poorly-edited two-hour shambles, consisting of a nonsensical plot line, forgettable characters, and an over-complicated script. But, more importantly, this film has ruined the reputation of Scandinavian film noir: a genre capable of developing tension in a cold and isolated production design, as seen in films like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and the TV shows Wallander and The Killing. There is a lesson to be learnt from The Snowman: mystery thrillers need to master the three basic elements of fluent editing, an engaging and tense script, and a coherent plot. Post-production is just as important as the filming process.
The film was partially successful in capturing the beautiful Norwegian environment. Conveying isolation through frequent snowfalls, the film’s environmental shots are used with a somewhat mediocre effect. Alfredson attempts to utilise this stereotypical motif of Scandinavian film noir, but this was not a redeeming feature. An over-reliance on long shots seemed rather inelegant. In fact, certain scenes are completely reliant on long shots. The lack of close-ups in conversations between Harry Hole (Michael Fassbender) and Katrine Bratt (Rebecca Ferguson) allows the audience to lose focus on a boring script that fails to advance the plot.
The director himself didn’t need to admit in an interview that principal photography was cut at least 5-6 weeks short: as gaps in the film’s narrative became more frequent, it already looks like a half-finished film. As a result, the editing seemed amateurish with a lack of footage. Major plot elements, including a nine-year flashback, were disjointed and created confusion, not mystery. Despite this, Fassbender plays the role of an alcoholic, depressed detective rather well, with his scenes being the only watchable elements. However, after a year of disappointing films, including Alien: Covenant, the road to accomplishing himself as a credible Hollywood A-Lister is collapsing rapidly.
However, the main criticisms must be drawn from the film’s pointless characters, made meaningless by unclear plot functions and poor storytelling. J.K Simmons’ character, for instance, could be edited out of the film with no difference to the plot’s intelligibility, and it would have saved the audience at least 20 minutes. In addition, poor character development littered the entire film. For example, simple ideas like utilising the opening title credits to characterise Harry Hole were negated, and the attempt at a personal connection between Kathrine Bratt and the actual ‘Snowman’ seemed laughable due to the clear lack of footage available to progress that sub plot and directly correlate it with the flashback. Thus, the film failed on the basics; a boring script, poor editing, and a nonsensical plot. By the time the film’s late (but predictable) twist was delivered, I still hadn’t even figured out why Val Kilmer was in this movie.
The Snowman has been the worst film of 2017 so far, and Disney already scraped the bottom of the barrel with Pirates of the Caribbean 5.
Director: Tomas Alfredson
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Val Kilmer, J. K. Simmons, and Chloë Sevigny
Run Time: 119 minutes