Michael Fassbender (Shame, Steve Jobs) stars as a Norwegian police detective on a missing person case that quickly becomes the hunt for a serial killer called The Snowman. Rebecca Ferguson (Dune, Doctor Sleep) co-stars as his eager new partner, who discovers potential leads involving a fertility doctor and a powerful businessman. But as leads turn into red herrings, is it possible the killer is someone else — someone closer to Harry than he might ever guess?
The Snowman, based on a series of books by Jo Nesbø, is a frustratingly simple story told in the most needlessly complicated, convoluted way possible. After a promising opening flashback scene, the movie falls quickly into a rut. Fassbender’s character, Harry Hole (insert laugh here?), is a drunk and a loser, so don’t expect him to hook you into the drama — at least not for a while. What’s worse is that The Snowman doles out massive amounts of exposition like an avalanche. Much of the movie feels like a heavily compromised production chopped to bits during post-production, with too many scenes fleeting by in montage fashion.
I was often very confused. Val Kilmer (Real Genius, Heat) plays a character in scenes removed from the main storyline — I’m still not sure if he’s a fellow detective, or if he’s even alive at the same time as Fassbender’s Harry Hole (definitely insert laugh here). Perhaps even more maddening is that most of the confusion doesn’t end up mattering much. It all leads to a dead end, with the movie resolving in an all too familiar, conventional way.
While the film overall misses the mark, it’s not a total failure. Director Tomas Alfredson (Let the Right One In, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) utilizes many stunning interior and exterior Scandinavian locations. He also delivers several strong images and a few viscerally disturbing moments. And Fassbender, while hard to take early on, does transform into an endearing character and gets to play some good moments of humility and determination.
Executive-produced by Martin Scorsese and with a supporting cast that includes J.K. Simmons, Chloe Sevigny, Charlotte Gainsbourg, and Toby Jones, The Snowman should be a much better movie. It’s put together in such a terrible way, I had to research it immediately after watching. Director Alfredson says the production simply didn’t have enough time to shoot everything that needed to be shot, which made the editors’ job very challenging. Since editors Thelma Schoonmaker and Claire Simpson have four Oscars between them, it sounds like Alfredson is probably right. Either way, The Snowman‘s final victim is itself.