If you thought a crime thriller with the name ‘The Snowman’ wasn’t doing itself any favours, you’d be right. Based on a Norwegian bestseller, Michael Fassbender plays detective Harry Hole as he investigates the mysterious Snowman winter murders to try and track down the killer. It really is as blunt as that. There is a political scandal subplot in there somewhere but by the third act, the film completely forgets about it along with any resemblance of an interesting or entertaining mystery thriller.
Simply put, ‘The Snowman’ is a mess – it’s like a British made-for-TV movie or miniseries that wants to be ‘Luther’ or ‘Sherlock’ but without the ingenuity or creativity, and at best I can summarise it as a poor man’s attempt at making something akin to ‘The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’, ‘Zodiac’, ‘Gone Girl’ and ‘Seven’ (yeah now that I write this, basically every David Fincher movie), but without the style, tenacity or complexity to keep your attention. It starts with a strange melodramatic setup of the killer’s backstory but manages to be unemotive, disinterested and disorganised all at the same time. It’s truly amazing at just how shallow everything feels. There’s no tension to drive the mystery and the sense of threat imposed by the killer is practically non-existent, leaving you with a toneless mumbling narrative that has nothing going on.
Michael Fassbender must be good, right? Wrong. He adds no charisma or likeability to his hollow shell of a character who is an alcoholic without any context (probably because he’s the archetypical lone wolf detective or something), and he literally sleeps and stares his way through a deus ex machina heavy film. I was emotionally detached from everything and everyone – the snow had more personality than any of the soulless characters you’re briefly introduced to. In fact, the film establishes various characters with distinct quirks like a guy who paints his toe nails that the camera feels a need to randomly linger upon. But it does nothing with them. It feels more like a smokescreen to trick you into thinking there’s a lot more to the plot, yet ultimately devolves to nothing more than a sudden incidental revelation that brings us to the climax. I’d say this is serviceable to people who like the “case-of-the-week” style narratives like ‘A Walk Among The Tombstones’, but calling it a neo-noir or detective story is a pretty big stretch given there is literally very little detective work going on surprisingly. There are no clues or even suspicious characters – you’d think something as basic as that would make the cut! – but instead when the killer’s identity is revealed, my reaction was: Eh… You’d think I’m spoiling it, but the potential suspects are so limited and underdeveloped that none of it comes as a surprise.
Even from a technical standpoint the film struggles. There are bizarre editing choices; continuity errors; ugly composition; a timeline that makes no indication of random flashbacks (yeah, things happen occasionally out of sequence); and the constant use of green screens makes a lot of the matte painted backgrounds look flat and one-dimensional, which is visually reflective of what the film is as a whole.
I’m both disappointed and stunned at how much ‘The Snowman’ manages to under deliver what should be a very simple crime story. It’s tedious, forced and consists of two hours of unapologetic nothingness and by the end, it still has the balls to set up a franchise with an unsympathetic forgettable protagonist who never improves or changes throughout. The movie thinks it’s being clever at times and does at least try to be, but it succumbs to its sloppy execution in what is a vapid, anti-thematic, inconsequential, resolution-by-chance cold block of ice.
Written by Ryan Hollinger
Rating – 2/10
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