There are stories about this film. How could there not be? Stories of being unprepared and rushed into principle photography. Then rushed into post-production having not finished principle photography. Stories of trying to cobble something together in the edit suite. Stories of actors being unable to speak properly due to surgery and having to have all their dialogue dubbed.
There are whispers of hurried reshoots, different crews, different ADs, different editors. Perhaps one day we will learn the whole story of what went on with the adaptation of Jo Nesbo’s bestselling crime novel. Until then, all we can judge is this utter catastrophe of a film.
The opening scene shows a bit of promise, especially if you are a fan of Scandi noir. Lots of beautiful, bleak Nordic scenery juxtaposed with men in positions of power committing acts of evil abuse. Have we seen all this before? Yes of course, but it’s Scandi noir, this desolate nastiness is kind of why we bought the ticket.
We then jump forward a couple of decades to meet the clichéd hard-drinking detective, Harry Hole (Michael Fassbender), whose personal life is a complete disaster, but apparently he’s a brilliant copper. Which is funny, because he shows no real aptitude for police work at all in this film. Hole is being taunted by a serial killer who enjoys dismembering women. Not only that, the killer likes to arrange their body parts in artful ways, and then build sinister looking snowmen.
This should be enough to sustain a half decent thriller. Unfortunately the entire film is sabotaged by its own narrative incompetence. There are subplots that go nowhere, characters introduced who add nothing to the story, and long flashbacks that are perplexing in their pointlessness. It crossed my mind more than once whether or not this was originally planned as a mini-series, and instead of re-adapting it and writing a proper screenplay, they just did a cut and paste job from a 6 part teleplay. I’m speculating of course. But let me put it this way, a list of all the crimes The Snowman commits against basic rules of drama, would be very bloody long.
Which still astounds me, because you would be hard pressed to find a higher calibre cast and crew anywhere outside the upper echelons of Hollywood. Working Title produced this film. The writing credits feature two Academy Award nominees. Long-time Scorsese collaborator Thelma Schoonmaker co-edited the film. Scorsese himself is the exec producer, having at one time been attached to direct. The man who took the reins after him is Tomas Alfredson (Let the Right One In, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy).
Yet somehow, despite all this talent it is one of the most poorly constructed and sloppily paced films you will ever see. It goes off the rails within the first twenty minutes, and then just keeps careering further into the snowy wilderness. You can’t even call it a hot mess, which in itself would be some sort of distinction. It is a frigid, shoddy, stupid, achingly dull mess.
The cast deserve better. Fassbender and Ferguson do their best, but such poor material, put together in such a haphazard way would make any actor, no matter how great, seem like they were off their game. There are big name actors in this film, who appear for one scene and then disappear. Actors with real pedigree reduced to inexplicably shit cameos.
Poor Val Kilmer gets the worst of it though. Apparently he was still in recovery from throat cancer, and quite frankly he looks frail in this. So frail that he could barely speak, and had to have all of his dialogue dubbed. Here’s a radical thought…cast someone else. Instead they cut around him in the most ridiculous way. It is shambolic.
The disc comes with a couple of short featurettes, but sadly nothing that explains how this film happened, or why you just lost two hours of your life watching this nonsense.
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, Charlotte Gainsbourg, J.K. Simmons, Val Kilmer Director: Tomas Alfredson Writer: Søren Sveistrup, Hossein Amini, Peter Straughan Released By: Universal Certificate: 15 Duration: 119 mins Release Date: 19th Feb 2018