Updated: May 16, 2021
The Snowman Review
By Rich Cline
With a cast and crew packed with A-list talent, this film seems like it should be a first-rate thriller. But a deeply compromised screenplay lets it down badly, leaving the actors floundering as people who make little logical sense. Meanwhile, the mystery develops in directions that aren’t remotely interesting, leaving the entire movie feeling flat. At least it’s beautifully photographed in stunning Norwegian scenery.
It opens in Oslo, as detective Harry (Michael Fassbender) struggles both with debilitating alcoholism and trying to be a father to his teen son with ex-girlfriend Rakel (Charlotte Gainsbourg), who is now married to plastic surgeon Mathias (Jonas Karlsson). When he’s able to work, Harry is looking into missing women cases with his rookie partner Katrine (Rebecca Ferguson). And several of these disappearances seem to be connected in some way, linking back to a murder years ago in Bergen that was investigated by two local cops (Val Kilmer and Toby Jones) and was somehow connected to a leery property developer (J.K. Simmons) who is now trying to lure a winter sporting championship to Oslo.
The rampant interconnections between everything and everyone are just a bit too coincidental, but we might have gone along with that if the filmmakers made something meaningful out of it. Based on a Jo Nesbo bestseller, the film is almost overloaded with top filmmakers, including producer Martin Scorsese, director Thomas Alfredson (Let the Right One In), and writers Hossein Amini (Drive) and Peter Straughan (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), plus Scorsese’s ace editor Thelma Schoonmaker. Yet only the cinematography by Oscar-winner Dion Beebe (Edge of Tomorrow) holds the interest.
By contrast, the story develops in fits and starts, constantly wandering off into pointless side-plots that leave terrific actors like Simmons and Jones with absolutely nothing to do. Gainsbourg does what she can with a character who never quite becomes a believable human being. And Kilmer is just worryingly odd. But Ferguson fares less well in a lead role that is so inconsistent that it boggles the mind. She seems to be the worst detective in movie history, ignorant of the rules of both policing and gravity.
At the centre of the film, Fassbender just about holds things together with his sheer charisma, but his character is erratic and inexplicable, one moment falling-down drunk and the next a borderline genius with a super-fit bare torso. It also doesn’t help that his name is Harry Hole (yes, really). He features in several of Nesbo’s novels, although after this a sequel is perhaps unlikely.
Facts and Figures
Production compaines: Universal Pictures, Working Title Films, Another Park Film
Cast & Crew
Director: Tomas Alfredson
Starring: Michael Fassbender as Harry Hole, Rebecca Ferguson as Katrine Bratt, Val Kilmer as Gert Rafto, Chloë Sevigny as Sylvia Ottersen, J.K. Simmons as Arve Støp, Jamie Clayton as Edda, Charlotte Gainsbourg as Rakel, James D’Arcy as Filip Becker, Toby Jones as Gert Rafto, Sofia Helin as DCI Gunnar Hagen, Anne Reid as Mould Man, Alec Newman as Superintendant Skarre, David Dencik as Beautiful Girl, Jonas Karlsson as Linda, Silvia Busuioc as Teacher, Jo Nesbø as Josephine, Hanna Oldenburg as Rakel / Phone agent (voice), Peter Dalle as Arve Stops Aide, Dinita Gohil as Celebrity Wife, Jamie Michie as Guests in tuxedos, Jeté Laurence as Volunteer, Liz Burnette as Detective Campbell, Roger Barclay as Policeman, Charlot Daysh as Boy in the train, Jan Lindwall as Beautiful Girls Mother, Aurora Nossen as Oleg, Johnny Otto as Police officer, Joakim Skarli as Male Spectator, Harris Reiz as Arve Støps Fashion Guest, Irina Kara as Factory Worker #1, Michael Yates as Rolf Ottersen, Ellen Hauge Brandstorp as Swiss Security Lady, Anthony Mark Streeter as Neighbor, Marius Tveit as Arve Støp’s aid, Adrian Salinas Reinertsen as Arve Støps Fashion Guest, Bjørn Iversen as Sport committee member #4, Victoria Ennis as Train Passenger, Stian Werme as Guest in Tuxedo, Magnus Lund as Bar Guest, Alexander Johansson as Arve Støps Fashion Guest, Thor Hoff as Hockey Spectator, Eirik Spånem Eliassen as Bar guest, Karl Andersen as Neighbour on crime scene