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The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


Review: “The Snowman” is a shockingly bad film

Michael Fassbender (above) plays a detective in the movie “The Snowman.” LAMRO/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Traditionally, when I watch a movie, I enter with a certain set of expectations for the film to meet. I don’t expect every movie to have an inspired plot, or stunning effects, or clever writing. I do, generally, expect movies to be somewhat competently made and that is something that “The Snowman” manages to fail to do completely. But in its complete failure to reach even my bare minimum expectations for a film, “The Snowman” manages to be entertaining in a completely different – and unintentional – way.

“The Snowman” is the newest feature film by Oscar-nominated Swedish director Tomas Alfredson, who, based on the final product, presumably stopped showing up after about the third day of filming. The film stars the usually excellent Michael Fassbender as a detective named – and I am being completely serious – Harry Hole. Yes, the ultimate testament to the complete lack of effort put into this movie by all parties involved is the fact that the name “Harry Hole” made it into the movie without anybody stopping and saying the name out loud to themselves. Granted the film is based on the 2007 Norwegian mystery novel “Snømannen,” and Hole’s character is named for a town in Norway, but Alfredson could have changed the name for English-speaking audiences. Harry Hole’s name is by far the most interesting thing about him, because besides that he is an extremely broad caricature of the “troubled, alcoholic detective” archetype that litters the landscape of film
and television.

Hole and his partner, Katrine Bratt, portrayed by Rebecca Ferguson, spend the movie investigating the disappearances of multiple pregnant women in Oslo, Norway. The detectives are trying to connect the disappearances to the return of an elusive serial killer who goes by “the Snowman.” The lack of chemistry between the leading pair is laughable, with both phoning in performances that make all interactions between them flat and unconvincing. Their scenes together consist of thoroughly uninteresting and seemingly pointless detective work, with multiple subplots emerging that simply go nowhere, such as Bratt’s over-complex backstory that connects her personally to the case. The mystery proves to have a painfully obvious twist, which despite becoming clear to the viewer about halfway through the film, remains frustratingly out of the reach of our main characters until almost the very end of the movie.

The most off-puttingly hilarious aspect of the movie is the imagery around the Snowman himself. One of the Snowman’s gimmicks is that he will build a frowning snowman in front of the houses of his victims. This gave the filmmakers the opportunity to include multiple shots of sad snowmen with the intention to appear creepy and foreboding, but come across as genuinely hilarious. Additionally, the Snowman will put the head of his victim onto the top of a snowman, or if the head is damaged, put a snowman head on top of the victim’s body. These are images that I cannot imagine read well in the script, but that definitely look utterly ridiculous and take away any semblance of seriousness that this movie attempts at achieving.

Overall, “The Snowman” is a shockingly bad movie made by a group of usually talented people. Alfredson’s last film, “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” was nominated for multiple Oscars, and Fassbender and J.K. Simmons (playing Arve Stop, a sleazy businessman, suspected to be involved with the disappearances) are usually brilliant, but all of them put in flat, seemingly effortless performances here. Alfredson has publicly blamed a rushed production schedule for the film’s failures, but even taking that into consideration, this film had obvious flaws that should have come to
his attention.

While “The Snowman” has a certain so-bad-it’s-good appeal to it, I definitely regret having spent money to go and see it and would not recommend that anybody else do so. This film has been heralded as the worst movie of the year, and I would definitely cosign that claim at this point.

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    AigoualNov 12, 2017 at 1:01 pm

    It’s indeed rare to see a wonderful book like the Snowman being totally ruined by a film like the Alfredson’s version. Incidentally Harry Hole is indeed the name of the detective in all Nesbø’s riveting mysteries. But you are wrong about its origin. Harry Hole, the detective of Nesbo’s best-selling series, is based on a mixture of people from Nesbo’s life. Acccording to Nesbø himself “Harry was the name of my childhood hero, a local football player, but Hole, which is a common Norwegian name, was the name of the local police officer in the village where my grandma lived. Me and my brother, we used to go there on summer holidays when we were kids, and our grandmother would always say, ‘If you’re not home by eight o’clock, Hole will come get you.’ And I never saw this guy, but I imagined him as this tall, blond, kind of scary guy, and many, many years later, I was in my hometown, and this old, old guy—must have been around ninety years old. He would come up to me, and he would give me his cold, hard hand and stare at me with his cold, icy eyes, and he would say, ‘I am Hole.’ And my first thought even then would be, But it’s not eight o’clock yet.”