The Snowman Review

With a cast and crew packed with A-list talent, this film seems like it should be a first-rate thriller. But a deeply compromised screenplay lets it down badly, leaving the actors floundering as people who make little logical sense. Meanwhile, the mystery develops in directions that aren’t remotely interesting, leaving the entire movie feeling flat. At least it’s beautifully photographed in stunning Norwegian scenery.


It opens in Oslo, as detective Harry (Michael Fassbender) struggles both with debilitating alcoholism and trying to be a father to his teen son with ex-girlfriend Rakel (Charlotte Gainsbourg), who is now married to plastic surgeon Mathias (Jonas Karlsson). When he’s able to work, Harry is looking into missing women cases with his rookie partner Katrine (Rebecca Ferguson). And several of these disappearances seem to be connected in some way, linking back to a murder years ago in Bergen that was investigated by two local cops (Val Kilmer and Toby Jones) and was somehow connected to a leery property developer (J.K. Simmons) who is now trying to lure a winter sporting championship to Oslo.


The rampant interconnections between everything and everyone are just a bit too coincidental, but we might have gone along with that if the filmmakers made something meaningful out of it. Based on a Jo Nesbo bestseller, the film is almost overloaded with top filmmakers, including producer Martin Scorsese, director Thomas Alfredson (Let the Right One In), and writers Hossein Amini (Drive) and Peter Straughan (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), plus Scorsese’s ace editor Thelma Schoonmaker. Yet only the cinematography by Oscar-winner Dion Beebe (Edge of Tomorrow) holds the interest.


By contrast, the story develops in fits and starts, constantly wandering off into pointless side-plots that leave terrific actors like Simmons and Jones with absolutely nothing to do. Gainsbourg does what she can with a character who never quite becomes a believable human being. And Kilmer is just worryingly odd. But Ferguson fares less well in a lead role that is so inconsistent that it boggles the mind. She seems to be the worst detective in movie history, ignorant of the rules of both policing and gravity.


At the centre of the film, Fassbender just about holds things together with his sheer charisma, but his character is erratic and inexplicable, one moment falling-down drunk and the next a borderline genius with a super-fit bare torso. It also doesn’t help that his name is Harry Hole (yes, really). He features in several of Nesbo’s novels, although after this a sequel is perhaps unlikely.