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Midvale Journal

Dan's Review: "The Snowman" melts into a sloppy mess

Oct 19, 2017 06:28PM ● By Dan Metcalf

Michael Fassbender in The Snowman - © 2017 Universal.

The Snowman (Universal)

Rated R for grisly images, violence, some language, sexuality and brief nudity.

Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Val Kilmer, J. K. Simmons, Toby Jones, David Dencik, Ronan Vibert, Chloë Sevigny, James D'Arcy, Jamie Clayton, Jakob Oftebro, Jonas Karlsson, Michael Yates, Alec Newman.

Written by Hossein Amini, Peter Straughan and Søren Sveistrup, based on the novel by Jo Nesbø.

Directed by Tomas Alfredson.



The mark of a really good crime/mystery/drama is plausibility. That means the outcome and plot has to fall into some sort of believable premise. It also helps to be clever in the presentation, without telegraphing the outcome. Then, there’s The Snowman (a film adapted by Swedish director Tomas Alfredson from Jo Nesbø’s novel), which does none of the above.

Michael Fassbender plays (Oslo, Norway) Police Detective Harry Hole, an alcoholic/drug addict down on his luck after ruining his marriage to Rakel (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and his relationship with her son Oleg (Michael Yates). When women start to disappear and up beheaded in and around Oslo, Harry inherits a new partner named Katrine (Rebecca Ferguson) and they begin an investigation. The killer leaves a calling card of a sad-looking snowman, along with notes to police, shaming them for not solving the crimes. Meanwhile, Katrine follows her suspicions that at successful business mogul named Arve Støp (J.K. Simmons) is behind the killings. At the same time, the killer seems to always be one step ahead of Harry as the disappearances and deaths continue, until a final showdown.

The Snowman is a depressing, pointless, and sloppy mystery, that really isn’t that mysterious. I didn’t read Nesbø’s novel, so I’m not sure who’s to blame for telegraphing who the real killer is. If you pay any attention to the plot, you can pretty much figure out “whodunit” less than halfway through the film. That didn’t stop Alfredson from taking us down several pointless roads, chasing a rather obvious red herring. It’s as if Alfredson tried to recapture the intrigue of Girl with the Dragon Tattoo films, but forgot to include anything resembling a credible story, or sympathetic characters.

What The Snowman lacks in mystery it compensates with creepy, gross human carnage, along with plenty of brooding scenes of Norway’s winter desolation. It’s not exactly doing any favors for the Norwegian Tourism Board, I’ll wager. It's also strange to see a bunch of people perform the roles of Norwegians in English accents.

Fassbender and Ferguson’s performances are noteworthy if viewed separately, but their partnership never develops any kind of on-screen chemistry. J.K. Simmons’ character is the most distracting and puzzling of all. Not sure what his inclusion had to offer other than name recognition of an Oscar winner. Another odd inclusion is a barely recognizable Val Kilmer, who shows up in several flashback scenes as another drunken detective investigating earlier deaths in a different Norwegian city.

This lack of structure and muddled outcomes reduces The Snowman to a movie to be avoided, as you look forward to warmer times.      


The Snowman Trailer