We didn’t expect a chilly thriller from the director of Let The Right One In and Tinker Tailor, Soldier Spy and producer Martin Scorsese with a cast this strong to be quite so bad, but there can be no question that something has gone terribly wrong with Tomas Alfredson’s adaptation of Jo Nesbø’s bestseller The Snowman. With the exception of the beautiful photography of the stunning Norwegian landscapes, there doesn’t seem to have been very much that went right.
The film’s marketing campaign has branded it as a horror but genre fans hoping for a thrill will be disappointed. There’s certainly a horror element to the ritualistic nature of the crimes but while it’s intermittently gory, it’s more silly than scary, a problem that’s brutally amplified by how seriously the film takes itself.
Brilliant alcoholic cop Harry Hole (Michael Fassbender, fine) teams up with Katrine Bratt (Rebecca Ferguson, good but wasted), a new arrival to the Oslo police force who is certain that a series of incidents involving missing women is are connected to a string of gruesome murders. Can they find the culprit by the time the next snow falls?
It’s clear that something is rotten in Norway from the sheer chaos of the editing in the prologue, which is promptly followed by the legendary Thelma Schoonmaker’s name in the opening credits, while Oscar winner Claire Simpson is credited on IMDB. The plotting lacks urgency, the construction is messy, the characterisation is non-existent, and if you haven’t guessed whodunit by the halfway point, you’re not paying attention.
Meanwhile, a great supporting cast floats around with a variety of accents and not much to do: JK Simmons is a rich creepy lech, Toby Jones pops up, suddenly there’s Chloe Sevigny, and Charlotte Gainsbourg is there to play the ex-wife character. As eccentric and as poorly dubbed as Val Kilmer’s performance as a boozed-up detective is, he does inject a little life into proceedings, as does David Dencik, who adds another secretive slimeball to his resume.
While there is a myriad of issues to pick apart, the most disappointing is that there is simply no atmosphere. Alfredson has made us feel the winter chill in LTROI and the damp grey misery in TT,SS, and The Snowman is such a mess that we didn’t feel anything beyond a desperation to know what the hell happened.