by Andrew Cripe, Movie Critic
“The Snowman” is a withering experience. It’s a rare kind of bad film, where every ounce of talent that went into it is absent from the final product. This should have been a good film, as it is directed by Tomas Alfredson, the maker of the amazingly atmospheric “Let the Right One In” (2008) and the brilliant “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” (2011), and features a stellar cast. But this film is a hopeless bore.
“The Snowman” tries to tell the story of an investigator in Oslo, Harry Hole (Michael Fassbender), who is attempting to solve a series of murders. But the filmmaking and storytelling is so clumsy that one begins to realize that the film doesn’t even know what it’s trying to be.
Is it about the investigation, or is it about Harry Hole’s alcoholism? Or is it about a creepy politician, Arve (J.K. Simmons) who keeps taking random pictures of women? Or is it the story of a murder investigation from nine years prior, headed by Raftor, played by an emaciated Val Kilmer? By the end of the laborious near two-hours, the viewer is left in an existential crisis, wondering if they have seen anything at all.
“The Snowman” is ineptly made and loosely, irresponsibly put together. This is not a complete film, as Alfredson was forbidden to film in certain locations and adapt chunks of Jo Nesbo’s novel of the same name. Long time Martin Scorsese collaborator Thelma Schoonmaker was brought on to make some sense out of what was filmed, but none of the moments have rhythm or balance.
The scenes are just stacked on top of one another, and the makers crossed their fingers hoping that the director of the deliciously complicated “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” could get away with a flat-out incomprehensible dumpster fire.
This is not a complete film, as Alfredson was forbidden to film in certain locations and adapt chunks of Jo Nesbo’s novel of the same name.
The performances are lifeless. Nobody looks like they want to be here. Val Kilmer is the most interesting failure of the film. Much of his dialogue is laughably dubbed over. He slouches through his scenes, trying to follow the scent of a paycheck rather than any direction. Michael Fassbender daydreams through his role, occasionally waking up to deliver flat, unhappy lines about his alcoholism.
The rest of the cast isn’t much better, but if credit was to be given to anyone, it should be Rebecca Ferguson as Katrine. She is trying in all of her scenes, but the focus of the film is so broken that her character or performance don’t get the payoff they deserve.
If a scene isn’t insignificant, it’s stupidly violent, subjecting the viewer to imagery that, in the hands of a more skilled team, would be chilling and unforgettable, but here are yawn-inducing. The cinematography by Dion Beebe tries to be moody, but is drab and amateurish most of the time. The score by Marco Beltrami is generic, sounding like it was pulled from bargain-bin horror films.
The viewer will bombard themselves with questions after watching “The Snowman.” “Why does this movie even exist?” will probably stand out as one of them. It was advertised as being a close cousin of films like “The Silence of the Lambs” (1991) and “Se7en” (1995), but the finished product isn’t even in the same ocean as those movies.
Questions are posed, like why a killer is removing people’s heads and setting them on top of snow people, but are never answered. Any trace of motive or artistic intention flies away as soon as it’s presented. Coming from a director of one of the best horror movies in decades, “Let the Right One In,” this isn’t just a giant disappointment, but a flagrant, obscene waste of talent, time, and resources that could have been used making a better film.