Directed by: Tomas Alfredson
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, Chloë Sevigny, J.K. Simmons, Val Kilmer, Toby Jones
Written by Corey Hughes
After a 6-year directorial break since ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy‘ in 2011, Tomas Alfredson returns to the director seat for the woeful adaptation of Jo Nesbø’s best-selling Scandi-noir murder mystery ‘The Snowman’, the fifth entry to the Oslo Sequence series of books starring Harry Hole.
Following a series of missing persons and murders in Oslo, acclaimed detective and loose-cannon Harry Hole (Michael Fassbender) and newcomer Katrine Bratt (Rebecca Ferguson), with their own personal intentions, hunt the aptly named Snowman down; a serial killer who leaves a snowman in his wake.
Fassbender, whilst trying his outmost to provide a plausible performance, fails to play the inner-tormented, broken man with the same gravitas that he brought to the table in similar roles in ‘Shame’ and ‘Hunger’; an unfortunate addition to a string of bad decisions from the immensely talented actor. The performances from the rest of the cast are moderate at best – Kilmer; an odd casting choice whose dialogue appears to have been dubbed in post production, Ferguson; who is unconvincing in filling the boots of the strong-willed Bratt, and J.K. Simmons; who provides a caricature-esque performance as the grotesque and completely unsympathetic Arve Støp.
Keeping within touching distance with Nesbø’s novel, Alfredson brings to the table experience from working on ‘Let The Right One In‘ by showing the goriness of the Snowman’s murders in their most truthful, explicit and uncensored form. The murders are set against the backdrop of Dione Beebe’s swooning cinematography, a successful depiction of bringing the cold, snow-engulfed Oslo to life, but in the grand scheme of things he is merely disguising what is ultimately a bleak, unforgettable experience.
There have been reports surfacing that during the editing process, Alfredson and editor Thelma Schoonmaker came to the realisation that chunks of the plot were missing, resulting in last-minute reshoots. Such disorganisation not only shows Alfredson’s lackadaisical approach in adapting the novel to the big screen, but also accounts for ‘The Snowman’s’ directionless nature; focusing on things that are insignificant whilst quickly glossing over things that are instrumental to the plot, an oddity that Schoonmaker is far from accustomed to from her partnership with Martin Scorsese (who was supposed to direct this mess before Alfredson stepped in).
Disregarding the inclusion of intricate, overlapping subplots evident in Nesbø’s novel, screenwriters Hossein Amini and Peter Staughan provide an unfaithful translation of the source material. Condensing a layered, 400-page novel to a mere 2-hour film is difficult but undoubtedly achievable, yet Amini and Staughan seem to struggle with adapting Nesbø’s multiple plots into a conceivable screenplay. The film cuts out a catalogue of important moments from the novel, which ultimately results in each character having the most minimal amount of depth and motivation possible. You aren’t given any reason to care about the characters, or the situations they find themselves in, an extreme flaw for any murder-mystery story.
‘The Snowman’, with so many acclaimed names attached to its production, with even Martin Scorsese as an executive producer, is a gargantuan disappointment. Use your price for admission towards Nesbø’s novel instead. You’ll thank me later.
Corey’s Rating: 4.0 out of 10