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MOVIE REVIEW: FTN reviews The Snowman

October 15th, 2017 by Mark McCann Comments

The Snowman (18)
Directed by: Tomas Alfredson
Starring: Michael Fassbender,  Rebecca Ferguson &  Chloë Sevigny  
Running time: 1h 59min

When an elite crime squad’s lead detective investigates the disappearance of a victim on the first snow of winter, he fears an elusive serial killer may be active again. With the help of a brilliant recruit, the cop must connect decades-old cold cases to the brutal new one if he hopes to outwit this unthinkable evil before the next snowfall.

With the debut of Stieg Larsson’s ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,’ to great fanfare in 2011 it’s been a right old wait for a new cinematic entry from a solid Norwegian crime procedural. In the subsequent years the genre’s been dominated by the subscription service, with Henning Mankell’s Wallander living on Netlfix, having more room to breathe than the rare confines of a two hour feature.

Starting with the seventh book as an entry point, Swede director Tomas Alfredson has decided to cinefy the genre once more. This time it’s Jo Nesbo’s troubled drunk and savant detector Harry Hole investigating Norway’s first serial killer. The premise alone reeks of promise.

Having Tinker,Tailor, Solider, Spy and Let the Right one In under his belt as well as being a native Swede to boot, Alfredson would seem a perfect choice for director. His slow build narratives and stark imagery have always delivered in the past. Working off a treatment from Hossein Amini and Peter Straughan, both high calibre scribes of some acclaim, on paper we have perfect matchmaking. Yet something just wasn’t right.

Perhaps this project as a more commercial feature for Universal Studios is what stood in the way of a film that was darker and more daring. Could we blame studio interference, or was it simply the wrong material for an acclaimed director and cast. Let the analysis begin;

The actors for one seem stilted. Fassbender in particular seems numb, which at first appears part of the Nordic aesthetic. Everyone here operates a level of cool reserve, absent from Hollywood’s usual thriller. And that would be okay if the paced-out plot was good enough to support the characters.

Instead, we have something that looks fantastic but feels hollow. Alfredson and Dion Beebe give us sweeping shots of scenic Oslo and Bergen juxtaposed with claustrophobic cold and sparsity, but the plot is formulaic. Which again, would be perfectly serviceable if it weren’t for the pervasively disaffected feel of the film.

All the hallmarks of a good detective thriller are here, with the alcoholic cop savant, the partner with an agenda, the compelling mystery set-up and brutal murders. The Snowman even incorporates the clever element of dual mysteries, weaving Val Kilmer’s Detective Gert Rafto’s prior investigation of the Snowman murders into Harry Hole’s latter -day sleuthing.

In spite of this, The Snowman plods along and never seems to build the tension necessary to carry off the cliché ending. A final note that seems more in line with Hollywood than the feel of a Norwegian crime story. Which given the elements involved is a great pity, as the ingredients of this film had everything necessary to craft a slow burning and edgy thriller. Instead of something more tranquil, lacking in genuine suspense and acted in a manner that seems nonchalant in the face of all too predictable villainy.

3 out of 5 Nerds

I came here in a time machine from the 1980s. The time machine was called childhood. I'm getting back there at all costs! (I also live, love, write, lift & pet cats wherever I may find them.)