The Snowman is a well plotted detective tale, until it isn’t, that could have been great had it fleshed out it’s characters just a bit and stuck the landing.
The Snowman, directed by the great Tomas Alfredson, is an adaptation of the best seller and follows detective Harry Hole in Oslo as a series of disappearances bring the perpetual drunk out of a stupor to solve this case. Sort of. Driving him is a young transfer, Katrine, who is snooping around and going beyond her clearance to try and crack this case, that eventually leads them all over Norway and into each other’s past.
To get into any more plot details would be a disservice to the film’s greatest strength, as you can see why this detective tale was so compelling to adapt. The bones of Katrine and Harry are also strong central characters, that the script, sadly, didn’t quite flesh out to the fullest. Michael Fassbender and Rebecca Ferguson both do fine jobs at bringing some depth to the characters, but I feel like we get introduced to them a little later than we should have to feed their development. In fact, the whole film feels just a tad undercooked across the board and would probably have benefited from being a three hour film; or a TV show even. That isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy myself, far from it, I was right along with these two’s investigation every step of the way, but these couple of tweaks would have given the film a depth that took it to greater heights. I do appreciate Alfredson’s trust in the audience, rarely stopping to spell anything out, and he isn’t afraid to run with the red herrings that are inherent in a story like this.
The film’s finale is the weak spot of the film. It is rushed and doesn’t make a lot of sense in bringing all of the themes together, on first viewing at least. Plus, the actual climax with the killer isn’t really earned, even if it has some poetic notes. That said, I enjoyed Alfredson’s direction in the film’s thriller scenes and was surprised at how much the intercutting of Hole investigating against other character’s in action worked. The time jumping, between a similar cold case ten years earlier, also works well in form, but Val Kilmer is atrocious in the film. They had to ADR every line of his dialogue and would barely even show his mouth move. He also looked like he was on the verge of death. Fassbender is watchable, as always, and I only wish we got a couple more chances to give his character that aforementioned depth. Ferguson is compelling as well, but she is even more underwritten than Hole. That said, her charisma works for the character and her go getter attitude. Charlotte Gainsbourg is also quite good, as Harry’s old flame, but, again, I wish we got to know more of her and their relationship.
The Snowman doesn’t rewrite the book on murder mysteries, but Fassbender and Ferguson make this a compelling watch. Yeah, the film didn’t nail the ending, and feels compressed, but I was compelled from nearly start to finish. Alfredson’s directorial eye remains sharp, the film could have used a smidge more atmosphere, but his imagery helps make The Snowman work as well as it does. I’d watch more Fassbender as Harry Hole, but I hope they make sure the script is all the way there.