A slow-paced, formulaic whodunit crime-thriller, Tomas Alfredson’s The Snowman is…exactly what I thought it would be. Straight-faced and “by-the-book” (pun intended), this movie doesn’t bring anything new to the table, and loses points because of it; the 23% MetaCritic score on IMDb is no accident.
We open with some exposition—a troubled youth, and his reason for cracking and, later on in life, becoming the titular Snowman Killer. I did enjoy this sequence, as very rarely do we see a clear-cut breaking point for our Hollywood villains—something that tipped them over the edge, caused them to become the “monsters” we and our protagonists perceive them to be. It (almost) humanizes our villain, but doesn’t quite save him from being dull—the obvious choice as the killer, from the outset, though the filmmakers try desperately to bombard us with other potential suspects.
Cut to 20-some years down the line, and we’re introduced to Michael Fassbender’s protagonist, Harry Hole (quit your snickering—be grown-ups). An altogether blasé character, Hole feels uninspired, lazy, your typical washed-up cop, who’s handed a case in desperation to stay relevant and, perhaps, regain the glory of his younger days on the force. Others (save Val Kilmer, whom I didn’t even recognize upon first glance, due to the fact he looks absolutely dreadful, these days) in the cast play their roles to fruition, however lame-duck that ending may be. The talents of J.K Simmons (Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy, Whiplash), Rebecca Ferguson (Life (2017), Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation), Toby Jones (Harry Potter, Captain America), and James D’Arcy (Marvel’s Agent Carter, Dunkirk (2017)), are, sadly, under-used. Perhaps I need to read the novel in order to understand some of these characters better, but they had either too little screen-time, were there solely to provide information to Hole, act as a transparent red herring, or relied on our protagonist too much to be independent, thinking individuals on their own.
The score is unnerving, at times, playing into the mounting tension as Hole must find and subdue the Snowman Killer before this maniac hurts someone close to him. I didn’t feel lost, throughout the journey to discovering the killer’s identity, although—as I said—reading the book may offer more insight into some scenes that seemed…out-of-place.
Not off-the-wall gory or violent (no need to hide one’s face during the murder-y bits), the one thing this movie does give us is mood.
Lots of mood.
Good in short doses, this can properly set the tone for a film. Just look at Blade Runner or Terminator 2, It Comes At Night or the newest adaptation of Stephen King’s It—these films immerse us in the atmosphere of the film within the first ten minutes of play, without beating us over the head with somber color palettes and the desire to start a warming fire right in the movie theatre. The Snowman—by design—makes us feel cold, isolated, as the Norwegian setting is, but drags us down with it. Set the scene, then move on, else viewers get bogged down in remorse for their tuning in (and money spent) over actually feeling something for the characters. It’s too cold a movie, leaning heavy on Hole’s less-than-desirable life; while serial murder is a bleak subject, one feels within the first quarter of the movie that this can’t end well for any involved. That hopelessness—which helps spur the plot forward—bleeds over into the audience. It’s as if the filmmakers wanted me to feel a touch depressed, walking out of the theatre.
Final ‘Risk Assessment: ***/**. A whirlwind, yet ultimately-forgettable popcorn flick, The Snowman offers nil in regards to freshness. Full of subtleties, untimely demises, and well-worn plot devices, it’s a movie where—when the credits began to roll—I shrugged, gathered my things, and left without a second-thought.
I’m surprised I could even muster the gumption to pop out this review…
Next review: Suburbicon (Oct. 27th)