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The Snowman – Movie Review

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The Snowman – Movie Review

Rating: B- (Okay)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Universal Pictures

The key to a successful mystery is getting to figure out the end result, alongside the detectives. The Snowman falters slightly on that front as the killer becomes fairly obvious early on. Director Tomas Alfredson works hard to bring a chilly atmosphere and that aspect works. However, The Snowman wants so much to trick the audience, even when the seams are blatantly obvious. At times, the film even seems to rest on the strength of the performances. One can understand why this team, including executive producer Martin Scorsese, saw potential in the material. However, the execution is just off most of the time.

Even with the inconsistency of the accents, Norway plays a major character. Everyone is shivering, the roads are snow white and there’s an instant Scandinavian feeling. Seeing Alfredson depict Norway on-screen ultimately ends up being more interesting than the actual mystery that drives the plot forward. Another aspect that makes the film tolerable are the lead performances. Michael Fassbender is decent as the hard-boiled detective who, of course, is a heavy smoker with a drinking problem. He clinches his teeth with the necessary wheels turning in his head. Rebecca Ferguson also provides strong support as his partner with the film thankfully avoiding an obvious romance.

It’s a shame the combined talents of Alfredson, Fassbender and Ferguson can’t make the mystery more engaging. The editing uses clear and unsubtle tactics to fool the viewer. J.K. Simmons is utterly wasted in a role whose purpose is straight out of the Scooby-Doo playbook. The use of flashbacks also serves to drop bread crumbs and are weirdly slotted into the main storyline. Val Kilmer is particularly distracting, especially as the ADR has not been well edited. The Snowman is utilising the entire bag of tricks, even bringing out the twin cliché. Even somebody not familiar with all of the detective movie tropes could see the wool the film is trying to pull over their eyes.

Even with the underwhelming screenplay and misshapen editing, the technical prowess seen in Tomas Alfredson’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Let the Right One In is nonetheless evident. Dion Beebe’s cinematography has a clear love for the Oslo cityscape and Norwegian mountains, giving them the proper glow and coldness. Marco Beltrami’s score also reflects the chill on screen and is delightfully over-the-top when it needs to be. The special effects are less effective, including almost laughable death scenes that are meant to be scary, but instead look silly. This killer seems to have borrowed some tips from Jigsaw when it comes to murdering their victims.

It’s fascinating watching The Snowman and knowing the people involved. One can easily see where the film could have been improved and made into something special. This could have been a scary and tense mystery, but it sort of sits there a lot of the time as we watch the characters hop from one place to place and we’re treated to oddly placed flashbacks. This is the very definition of a paperback thriller. It’s slightly stale, but the prose has potential to be something more weighty. The final cut is ultimately a product that will be forgotten after a couple of days. Thankfully, Alfredson can definitely pull off a superior film for his next production.


Stefan Ellison

Stefan Ellison