The Snowman (2017) A (Mildly) Belated Review

I vaguely recall there was some excitement regarding the 2017 release of the film The Snowman.

Based on a novel by popular mystery/thriller writer Jo Nesbø, the film featured Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, J. K. Simmons, and Val Kilmer. The movie was produced by Martin Scorsese and directed by Tomas Alfredson (Let the Right One In; Tinker, Tailer, Soldier, Spy).

And yet, when the film was released, it was met with almost universal scorn from critics and Mr. Alfredson went on the acknowledge his film was a failure, even stating that because of budget cuts, he was unable to film some 10% of the script (!).

The film, needless to say, didn’t do too well at the box-office and was soon gone, if not forgotten.

Yet I was intrigued by the stories regarding the film and its final release. It isn’t often that you get what seems for all intents and purposes a very high profile “A” film with a great cast, director, writer, and producer which turns out to be -if the critics are to be believed- a near complete disaster.

Yeah, I was curious to see this film. I had to see for myself.

I’ll start with the good, which I think is pretty apparent from the above trailer: The film looks gorgeous. The snowy Norwegian setting is both beautiful and, when needed, creepy.

And that’s about all that’s good about this film.

This is a fragmented film whose story is at times difficult to follow because we have things happening here and there and often one sequence doesn’t even seem to be related to another. For example, the entire political subplot involving J. K. Simmons amounts to almost nothing in the context of the rest of the film. And Mr. Simmons isn’t even the only recognizable actor to appear in a nothing subplot. Perhaps one of the most head scratching sequence, a very small cameo appearance by Chloë Sevigny, has her play a victim of the serial killer and her twin sister!! Why? To give Ms. Sevigny three minutes of screen time instead of a paltry two?! Because that’s her entire story arc, victim then twin sister who shows up seconds later to say her sister was a good person, and that’s that.

Perhaps the saddest thing to see is Val Kilmer, who at the time was dealing with health issues and who looked, to be blunt, pretty sickly. Every bit of his dialogue was dubbed, quite badly, and if it wasn’t for the fact that he looks alarmingly frail, you’d laugh at the pathetic attempt to dub his lines in.

Michael Fassbender, a usually reliably good actor, is not terrible but is relegated to playing a one note character, your morose, brilliant, yet alcoholic/burnt out protagonist. His character’s alcoholism has him on the outs with the police department but he latches on to a promising young detective (Rebecca Ferguson) who has secrets of her own and is involved in what may be a case involving a serial killer.

Of course, it turns out that they are indeed dealing with a clever serial killer, one with mysterious motives and possibly years of hidden activity.

While the movie is a mess, in the end one does put the pieces together enough to understand the plot they were trying to present. Unfortunately, even with that knowledge one feels the story was underwhelming.

I suspect in the novel the movie was based on the many weird characters and scenes that seemed to go nowhere mattered a lot more than they do on screen. By the time we reach the movie’s climax and the serial killer is revealed, he turns out to be pretty much who we thought and afterwards wonder why he bothered with many of the actions he took.

As I said before, based on the stories I read about The Snowman, I couldn’t not see it. The curiosity alone made it irresistible.

But the movie is every bit as disjointed and disappointing as the critics said, with the only redeeming element being the wonderful cinematography and winter setting.

Too bad.