Michael Fassbender used to be great at picking good projects. Not so lately.
Michael Fassbender used to be great at picking good projects. Not so lately.

MOVIE REVIEW: The Snowman a lesson in squandered potential

A Scandi-noir serial killer thriller based on a best-selling novel with a hotshot director and an impressive cast. It should've been great. It wasn't.

Adapted from Norwegian crime writer Jo Nesbo's book, The Snowman was supposed to be the jumping off point to a movie franchise based around Harry Hole, the detective featured in 11 of Nesbo's novels. It's hard to imagine that'll happen now.

Disjointed, clichéd and not nearly as tense or thrilling as the trailer implies, The Snowman is a lesson in squandered potential.

Detective Harry Hole (Michael Fassbender) of the Oslo police is a lonely drunk prone to passing out on public benches even though it's about minus-nine degrees in the Norwegian winter and he's not even wearing a scarf. But we're supposed to believe that despite all that, he's a savant-like detective with the deductive skills to match Sherlock Holmes.

He must be good because his boss is willing to help him cover up the fact he hasn't turned up to work in a week after a days-long bender.

Unlikely to launch a new franchise.
Unlikely to launch a new franchise.

On the page in Nesbo's novels, Hole is exactly the kind of compelling character who's kind of tortured but brilliant. The transition to screen has not been kind. Even in the hands of someone of Fassbender's talent, the on-screen Harry is dull and barely present. Shame.

Someone mysterious - ie. the murderer - has sent Harry a cryptic and eerie note about "watching mummy", signed off with a hand-drawn snowman figure.

Not long after, he and his newly transferred colleague Katrine (Rebecca Ferguson) is called to a missing person's case in which a young mum has disappeared. Outside her house, looking into the window, is a freshly built snowman. Coincidence? Surely not.

There's a spate of missing women cases connected to snowfall (in Norway, go figure), with some dating back years.

The Snowman is unnecessarily complicated and also not complicated enough, in that the red herrings are glaringly obvious, taking all the fun out of a whodunit.

Katrine has many secrets.
Katrine has many secrets.

The movie wastes the actors assembled, which in addition to Fassbender and Ferguson, include Toby Jones, J.K Simmons, Val Kilmer (!), Chloe Sevigny, Jonas Karlsson, James D'Arcy and Charlotte Gainsbourg, some in thankless blink-and-you'll-miss-it roles. Everyone seems bored.

On the plus side, the young actor, Michael Yates, that plays Harry's sort-of-former-stepson, will amuse with his effusive "eye-acting".

As always, it's a little jarring watching poshly accented Brits, or in Fassbender's case, an Irish-German, play Norwegians, even more so when the couple of Swedish actors present suppress their Scandinavian lilt to put on British accents. We're certainly not sure what Simmons, Kilmer or Sevigny's dialects were meant to be.

But the most baffling part about The Snowman's ineffectiveness is the man responsible - Swedish director Tomas Alfredson has made two incredible films that nailed tension: Let The Right One In and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. That The Snowman was helmed by the same director is almost unthinkable.

Alfredson has come out and said production on the movie didn't go smoothly - they missed filming almost 15 per cent of the scenes during principal production and pre-production was rushed.

It shows.

The Snowman is in cinemas from today.

For geek-outs about movies and TV, follow @wenleima on Twitter.


The Snowman

Stars: Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, Charlotte Gainsburg, JK Simmons, Val Kilmer, Toby Jones.  

Director: Tomas Alfredson  

Rating: MA 15+  

Verdict: 2 stars

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