The Snowman, 2017.
Directed by Tomas Alfredson.
Starring Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Val Kilmer, Toby Jones, J.K. Simmons, Chloe Sevigny, and Sofia Helin.
When an elite crime squad’s lead detective (Fassbender) investigates the disappearance of a victim on the first snow of winter, he fears an elusive serial killer may be active again. With the help of a brilliant recruit (Ferguson), the cop must connect decades-old cold cases to the brutal new one if he hopes to outwit this unthinkable evil before the next snowfall.
The Snowman is not Tomas Alfredson’s film, or at least it can’t be. Nothing about it screams Alfredson, nor Nesbo, it has the fingerprints of countless writers, editors and hurried directors desperately trying to piece together a jigsaw made up of pieces unable to fit. From the expositional prologue that plays like a deleted scene from Hannibal Rising or a long forgotten Saw sequel it’s made clear that Alfredson was laid to waste, giving way to a director who didn’t have a clue.
The script too surely must have been vetoed on the first draft, so haphazard and full of holes, it seems as if writers Peter Straughan and Hossein Amini – both incredibly talented – had an hour to read then write a full script with no time to produce further drafts.
It’s a similar story with the edit. There is quite clearly 40 minutes missing, and there is no attempt to hide it, instead characters appear and disappear on a whim and any motivation is defined by something lost on the edit floor.
So, this is not Tomas Alfredson’s film. But lets say it is, and it is not good. His previous film, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy was a master class in slow burning tension, whilst Let The Right One In is one of the great modern horrors. So naturally, The Snowman and the cast, the writers, the director, Jo Nesbo, as part of collaborative team, should create a thriller that at least thrills. But they didn’t.
There’s futility in explaining the plotting. Michael Fassbender is infamous – we are only told this, he is shown as being absolutely pants at his job – detective Harry Hole who, alongside rookie Katrine (Rebecca Ferguson) is tasked with finding, and bringing to justice a serial killer with a hankering for snowmen. Amidst this, there is political intrigue concerning J.K. Simmons, flashbacks to Val Kilmer and Toby Jones and a sodden relationship between Fassbender and ex-wife Charlotte Gainsbourg, all of which lack any cohesion.
And these plot points appear momentarily only to vanish with little reasoning. Chloe Sevigny, an ever-welcome screen presence, appears as twins for maybe five minutes, in what maybe the lamest piece of stunt casting. It’s a similar situation with Val Kilmer – terrible, just terrible – and Toby Jones, both appearing in flashbacks that act only as temporary distractions.
It’s bemusing stuff, and Alfredson (if it truly was Alfredson) struggles to juggle it all. The central mystery lacks fundamental mystery, and upon the reveal of the killer, it demands a shrug.
Women are also treated with the bare minimum of respect. Ferguson, foil to Fassbender’s grumpy cop, is given little to grapple onto whilst Gainsbourg is his sexed up ex, somehow obsessed with a character with no redeeming features. There’s also a nasty undertone of sexual exploitation, with Ferguson reduced to a figure defined only by her sexuality and Gainsbourg seemingly stepping off the set of Nymphomaniac.
Missing sequences result in an experience almost lucid, in part due to Kilmer’s baffling Tommy Wiseau like performance. Any chance of a Kilmer-ssance has gone up in flames.
The most interesting thing about The Snowman isn’t what is on the screen; it’s everything off it. How it is a film of this magnitude could fall at every hurdle is to be beholden, and one can only presume Alfredson, in years to come, will denounce this as not his.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★ ★