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A mystery that feels as mashed together and perishable as its title, The Snowman squanders its bestselling source material as well as a top-notch ensemble cast.
A mystery that feels as mashed together and perishable as its title, The Snowman squanders its bestselling source material as well as a top-notch ensemble cast.
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All Critics (173)
| Top Critics (35)
| Fresh (13)
| Rotten (160)
[The Snowman] is two hours of uninterrupted, snow-caked boredom.
... the movie itself is an inept misfire - the kind of entrancing train wreck that makes you long for a behind-the-scene tell-all to explain what, exactly, went so wrong.
How did a delicious Scandinavian noir novel go so spectacularly wrong on screen?
Not a single scene works as anything more than a total waste of good film.
With a perplexing tale and some very odd creative choices, it's so easy to laugh at The Snowman, but this kind of tale shouldn't inspire laughter.
In this soul-deadening freeze, who wouldn't seek solace in a bottle? Or in the physical warmth of a lover's arms? Or in mass murder?
A nonsensical movie less famous than its own meme.
A frigid disaster of a serial killer thriller, The Snowman does just about everything wrong."
You'll go in looking for an ice-cold, grisly chiller. Instead you'll be served the equivalent of a tepid cup of Bovril - and I really hate Bovril.
While The Snowman seems to have a few words about broken families, its more obvious lesson is don't make a movie while alcohol is in the system.
The Snowman fails to deliver on its promise of a riveting serial killer thriller.
With everything going on, this could have been a truly great movie... missed potential is so frustrating.
Suspenseful and full of mystery, The Snowman is an atmospheric noir thriller. Based on an international bestselling novel, the film follows a police detective who investigates a serial killer who targets women. Starring Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Val Kilmer, and J. K. Simmons, the film has a pretty strong cast; though the performances are rather lackluster. And the script is kind of weak, doing a poor job at constructing the mystery and investigation. Still, there are some intense scenes as the killer stalks his prey and crime scenes are discovered. It may not come together very well, but The Snowman is an engaging film with a fair amount of intrigue.
Michael Fassbender may be of the one of the most talented and reliable actors of his generation but the same can't always be said about some of his film choices. Assassin's Creed only added to another failed video-game adaptation and his work with Ridley Scott on Prometheus, Alien: Covenant and The Counselor also failed to impress (although, I was admittedly one of the few admirers of the latter film). My point being, though, is that he's now not quite as bankable as he once was. Over recent years, you're just as likely to catch a stinker as you are a work of quality and The Snowman doesn't do anything to remedy this issue.
Plot: Alcoholic, crime squad detective Harry Hole (Michael Fassbender) finds himself on the trail of an elusive serial killer who kills when the first snow of winter falls. With the help a new recruit (Rebecca Ferguson) he has to compare the new case with decades old ones to connect the dots and track down the a killer that's been on the loose for some time.
Originally intended as another Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio project before then having Ridley Scott attached it. Due to delays, DiCaprio walked away, Scorsese ended up as executive producer and Scott walked as well. It could've been time constraints that led to them distancing themselves or just maybe these two experienced directors seen problems ahead and made a wise choice. There are undeniable problems and if truth be told, I fell asleep on the first viewing and went back to it again thinking that I hadn't given it my full attention and may have missed something. I hadn't. The film is sleep-inducingly dull and lacks so much narrative drive that it's hard to keep your eyes open.
Put simply, it's a ridiculously lazy film with an insultingly lazy script. The sheer incoherence of it makes no difference whether you've slept through it or not. It's the quality involved that makes this a surprisingly awful endeavour though; there's Fassbender, of course, and also the usually reliable J.K. Simmons in the cast; there's Oscar nominated screenwriters in Frank's Peter Straughan and Drive's Hossien Amini penning the script to Jo Nesbø's taut crime novel and director Tomas Alfredson coming off the back of two solid critical hits in Swedish vampire film Let The Right One In and the labyrinthine adaptation of John LeCarre's Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. So what is the problem? The problem obviously stems from it being a rushed production. Apparently, Fassbender started shooting only two days after wrapping Assassin's Creed, and it shows. He looks absolutely exhausted; Jonny Greenwood actually created a score that ended up not getting used and Alfredson also claims that he came late to the production and that 15% of the screenplay was never actually filmed. You can tell. There are more plot holes here than you can shake a Harry Hole at and the narrative is so painfully slow that any snowmen getting built would've thawed out long before an investigation even got going.
It's such a shame that this really didn't come together as all the ingredients are in place and had some genuine potential. In fact, it's astonishing how poor it is with the quality involved and it looks like any hope of a Harry Hole franchise could already be dead in the water while Michael Fassbender best be careful if he wants to retain his reputation. To be fair, the film's problems don't particularly lie with him but he needs to seriously take stock and be bit more discerning and choose projects more worthy of his abilities. Who knows? Maybe it's no one's fault and this is just a classic casualty of production difficulties and time constraints that led to no one being able to do their jobs effectively. What could've been a suspenful thriller ends up about as thrilling as eating yellow snow.
Don't stay out in the cold too long with this one or you might catch a serious doze of incurable mediocrity. And never mind the misleading title of "The Snowman". It should've taken its name from its anatomy instead... Snow balls.
When meshing multiple genres together, it can be quite the challenge to please fans of each, but it's been done very well in the past. With the right amount of effort put, multiple genre films can be some of the best out there. Whether you're talking about Gone Girl being a Crime/Thriller or Hot Fuzz being an Action/Comedy, genre crossovers can be a real joy to see on-screen. The Snowman is the most recent film to mix genres, delivering a Horror/Thriller vibe, with a very large portion falling into the Mystery category as well. Sadly, this movie feels hollow, empty, and unfinished. With such a stellar cast and crew working on this movie, there's no reason for a movie like this to be terrible, but let me just start by saying this is one of the worst films of the year. The Snowman fails as a piece of compelling storytelling, as well as doing anything new for its genre.
Starring Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, and Charlotte Gainsbourg, The Snowman follows detective Harry Hole as he investigates mysterious disappearances. Joined by detective Katrine Bratt, the two realize that the kidnapper/killer has been dismembering their victims and leaving traces in the form of snowmen. That's the simplest way to explain this film without spoiling or making it sound too ridiculous, because trust me, the twist and how the twist occurs is quite dumb in terms of storytelling. This film went through many issues when being filmed, but then why the major release? Quite honestly, this film deserved to be sent straight to home video, because everything from its clunky screenplay to its choppy editing felt off.
Your movie makes it into post-production and is now being made into the best possible version it can be (hopefully), so why is it that it still turns out to look like a two-hour trailer that breezes past crucial plot points? There are multiple occasions throughout the course of this film that sequences feel missing. Although certain reveals are easily spottable throughout the first two acts, the movie asks you to patiently wait until the final 15-20 minutes in order to really invest yourself in the plot twists. That would've been fine if the story kept you on the edge of your seat, but not much of anything is truly that interesting throughout the first two acts. Yes, the premise itself could've lent itself to an interesting film overall, but it was only the performances that kept me from wanting to leave the theatre.
I'm a huge fan of Michael Fassbender and Rebecca Ferguson. Although Ferguson hasn't really been all that present in the world of motion pictures for as long as Fassbender (at least in the mainstream spotlight), I find her work to be wonderful. Whether it's being a badass heroin in Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation or giving a devoted dramatic performance in the lukewarm The Girl on the Train, she has proven herself to have some range. Fassbender is pretty likable in everything he does, so that should come as no surprise, but I'm honestly only gushing over these two performers because the film itself doesn't have much to lend a compliment to. I found myself incredibly bored with its pacing and lack of an inciting incident to really get me invested.
In the end, there is a salvage score to keep the film's tone in line, a lot of the cinematography is well-done, and the performances seem to be devoted to their respective roles. That being said, the screenplay, along with the overall editing and final product, just doesn't match up to any of those aspects. The film feels like one long movie trailer for a ten-episode television series. The worst part is that you can see where the film could've been improved upon, which makes rewatching it impossible. There isn't a scenario in which I'll ever find myself recommending this movie to anyone. The Snowman is a neat idea that is stretched into a two-hour film that feels too long, while also feeling incomplete. A disappointing film to say the least.
The Snowman is an awfully dumb movie that mistakenly believes it is smart. It's convoluted, impenetrable, serious to the point of hilarity, and a general waste of everyone's times and talents. When the best part of your movie is the scenic views of Norway, and unless it's a documentary about Norwegian winters, then you have done something very, very wrong. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo this ain't.
Harry Hole (Michael Fassbender), possibly the most regrettably named protagonist in recent memory, is a brilliant detective on the hunt for a killer in Oslo. Someone is abducting women and chopping them up into snowmen. The killer even sends Harry a taunting note with a crude drawing of a snowman. Together with a new partner, Katrine Bratt (Rebecca Ferguson), they try and hunt the cold-blooded killer with a penchant for snowmen.
the-snowThe plot is so convoluted and hard to follow that it's a challenge just to work up the energy to keep your eyes open as scene after scene plods along. The Snowman doesn't so much exist as a functional screen story but more a series of incidental scenes that barely feel connected. It feels like one scene has no impact upon the next, which eventually sabotages any sense of momentum and direction. It feels like it's going nowhere because none of these moments feel like they're adding up to anything. There are entire subplots and characters that are, at best, tangential to the story and could have been culled completely with no impact. J.K. Simmons' wealthy sleaze and storyline about securing the World Cup for Oslo comes to nothing. The self-recording police device seems destined to record something significant. It does, but then the killer just erases the footage. This entire storyline could have been achieved with a smart phone, including the part where a severed finger is required to break the device's fingerprint lock. Val Kilmer's flashbacks (he sounds weirdly dubbed and looks sickly) as a murdered detective don't really come to anything or offer revelations. In fact the revelations that do arise are not gleaned from clues but are merely told to us with incredulous haste. The Snowman poster boasts "I gave you all the clues" but I challenge anyone to tell me what they are. What's the point of a mystery where nothing matters? It's a film stuffed with nonessential details and lacking a key point to engage.
I'll give you another example of how moronic and wasteful this movie is, and it involves none other than Oscar-nominated actress Chloe Sevigny (Boys Don't Cry). Harry Hole and Katrine visit Sevigny's character and (mild spoilers but who really cares?) approximately two minutes later she is decapitated. Seems like a pretty big waste of an actor of Sevigny's caliber on a do-nothing part. The police show back up on the scene and Sevigny is still walking around alive, this time introducing herself as the twin sister we never knew about. Ah, now perhaps the inclusion of Sevigny will be warranted and maybe the killer having confused his victims will be a significant clue that leads the detectives onto the right path. Think again, hopeful audience members. Sevigny is never seen from again, never heard from again, and never even referenced again. Why introduce the concept of an identical twin and do nothing with it? Sevigny had not one but two do-nothing parts in this mess.
Even the ending (again spoilers, but we've come this far, so why the hell not?) elicited guffaws. Harry Hole tracks down the killer outside onto an icy lake and screams for this person to confront him. The killer then immediately shoots Harry in the chest, immobilizing him. The killer then slowly stalks Harry and then simply walks into an open hole in the ice and drowns. Was that there the entire time? Did Harry somehow create it? Did he find it and strategically position himself near it? Did the killer not see this hole in the ice at all considering they were walking up on Harry from a distance? It's such a hilariously anticlimactic ending that it feels like the killer, and so too the movie, is meekly giving up and accepting defeat.
The main character is just as uninteresting as the gruesome killer. Harry Hole is reportedly a brilliant detective and one whose past cases are so revered that they are taught in places of higher learning. Yet, at no point in the movie do you gain the impression of his oft-stated brilliance. He seems pretty bad at his job, plus he constantly loses track of his gun. It's another example of the movie telling us things without the requisite proof. Harry Hole (referred to as "Mr. Hole" and "the Great Harry Hole" too) is your typical super driven alcoholic detective who pushes his family away because he's too close to his work. There is the germ of a starting idea of a character that is too selfish to make room for his family, but this isn't going to be that story. At one point, Harry Hole's ex-girlfriend (Charlotte Gainsbourg) seems to be having a self-destructive affair with Harry Hole, but this dynamic isn't explored and only surfaces once. It's a scene so short that it's over before Harry Hole can literally get his pants off. We don't see the brilliant side of the character and we're also denied the evidence for his destructive side. Fassbender (Assassin's Creed) is on teeth-gritting, laconic autopilot here and the English-speaking cast tries their own game of playing Norwegian accents while sounding mostly British or Brit-adjacent.
Even the title is one more example of how woefully inept this movie becomes. Surprise: the snowman means absolutely nothing. It's not some key formative memory from the killer's childhood or some integral icon attached to a traumatic experience. It's not even a bizarre sexual fetish. The snowman doesn't even mean anything to the guy making the snowman in the movie! You'd be forgiven for thinking that the presence of snowmen are entirely coincidental throughout Oslo and the whole of the film. It's so stupidly misapplied as well, with the movie working extra hard to make the very sight of a snowman as a moment to inspire uncontrollable fright. It goes to hilarious lengths, like a camera panning around an ordinary snowman that then reveals... a second snowman built into its snowy back. OH NO, NOT THE DOUBLE SNOWMAN. There's a moment when Harry looks down to his car parked on a street and sees... a snowman having been carved into the snow atop the car. OH NO, NOT A SNOWMAN INDENTATION. Just imagine the killer standing on the hood of the car and digging snow out on top to craft his masterpiece of snow-art-terror. I just start laughing. Then there's the application of the murders. When the killer is severing heads and putting human heads atop snowman bodies, now we're in business. That's an image worthy of the genre. However, there's also a scene where the killer blows someone's head off and replaces it with a snowman's head. It's such an absurd image and it's going to melt before most people find it, so what was the point exactly? Then there's the idea of thinking of the killer rolling a severed head into a snowball, which just makes me laugh thinking about somebody stooped over and toiling to make this happen. Ultimately, the snowman is so peripheral and meaningless, my friend Ben Bailey remarked it would be as if you renamed Seven as Toast because the killer also ate toast occasionally ("No, no, trust me, the toast is more important than you think...").
I thought at worst The Snowman was going to be a high-gloss Hollywood equivalent of a really stupid episode of TV's really stupid yet inexplicably long-running show, Criminal Minds. This is far, far worse. At least with your casual Criminal Minds episode, it's garish and lousy and icky in its sordid depiction of grisly violence against women, but you can still understand what is happening on the screen. You can still follow along. The Snowman is impenetrable to decipher, not because it's complicated but because it's all misinformation and filler. According to interviews, director Tomas Alfredson (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy) was unable to film about 10-15 percent of the script because of hectic schedule demands, so no wonder it's so difficult to follow. Very little makes sense in this movie and what does has been done better in a thousand other movies. This makes The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo look like Shakespeare. With a dull protagonist who doesn't seem exceptionally competent at his job, paired with a dull antagonist with no larger game plan or purpose, or even personality, and a mystery with a dearth of clues to actively piece together, the movie turns ponderous, punishing, and psychologically shallow. It's a dumb, dumb, dumb movie that thinks it's smart and contemplative with a cold streak of nihilism. This silly thing takes itself so seriously that, if you're like me, you'll find yourself cackling at its desperate attempts to make the visage of a snowman into the stuff of nightmares. This feels more like genre parody. The Snowman is an aggressively bad whodunit that fails to make an audience care about any single thing happening. You're better off staying home and watching the worst of Criminal Minds instead.
Nate's Grade: D
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