If you had to create a dream team of filmmakers and storytellers, The Snowman would represent a pretty strong outfit. Based on a Jo Nesbo novel, and directed by Tomas Alfredson, with an ensemble cast consisting of the likes of Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, J.K. Simmons and Toby Jones – it’s hard to figure out quite where everything went wrong, because the film has done just that, in such emphatic fashion.
Fassbender plays the troubled, alcoholic detective Harry Hole, leading up a team of investigators striving to get to the bottom of a murky set of affairs sweeping across Oslo, which begins with the elusive death of a young woman – which Hole believes will be the first of a whole collection of murders, with a serial killer seemingly on the loose. Alongside Katrine Bratt (Ferguson), the pair connect decades worth of evidence, all stacked up, and leading them towards their suspect – if only they could uncover exactly who it may be, and they’d better do so before the next snowfall, for that appears to be when the killer strikes.
Though also featuring Val Kilmer and Charlotte Gainsbourg, to add to the remarkable cast assembled, with even small, insignificant roles falling into the laps of performers like James D’Arcy, David Dencik and Chloe Sevigny – The Snowman is suffocated by its own lack of originality, so archetypal in its execution, adhering so stringently to the tropes of the genre at hand. Now there can be films that present a semblance of comfortability that derives from this affectionate predictability, but given the calibre of those behind this picture, it’s impossible not expect a film that transcends expectations, to subvert the formula rather than abide so frustratingly by it.
The dialogue feels so stilted too, and even when two actors from the same country are sharing the screen, the conversations are so unnatural it feels like everybody is acting in their second language. This is emblematic of a feature with such low production values, as the cliched score and the soft-focus aesthetic cheapens the narrative that plays out in front of it. To a point where when the actors are giving it their all in certain sequences, it’s almost embarrassing for them.
There is a timeless quality to the piece, and had it not been for the ring of an iPhone, this a film that could really have been set at any point – but we don’t utilise the setting effectively, nor the harsh, snowy wilderness, which should be on hand to inform and enrich the atmosphere, much like Wind River did so successfully. But it doesn’t, leaving behind a truly forgettable, laughably bad thriller that sadly is indicative of Fassbender’s recent choices in cinema. The actor is undoubtedly one of the most talented in the world, but his ability to pick the right screenplay is questionable. He needs Steve McQueen to hurry up and make another film to drag him out of this hole.