I can barely generate the strength to write my thoughts on “The Snowman.” Which is fitting, given how lethargic the actual film is.
Based on a crime novel by Jo Nesbo, this thriller (and I’m being generous using that word) stars Michael Fassbender as Harry Hole, a detective in Norway with a once stellar reputation who now lives life awash in alcohol and ennui. Why is he this way? Who knows? Director Tomas Alfredson can’t be bothered to give us much in the way of motivation or back story for many of the characters involved, including the lead.
One day Harry gets a mysterious note with a drawing of a snowman at the bottom. Shortly thereafter, women start disappearing. The crimes always happen when it’s snowing, and a snowman is left at the scene.
The events are similar to a series of crimes 9 years earlier. Those killings were investigated by Gert Rafto (Val Kilmer), another broken-down, alcoholic detective. Why is he that way? Who knows? I can only assume the cold and bleak climate really wears down crimestoppers.
A new detective (Rebecca Ferguson) is investigating the crimes, but Harry butts in because he doesn’t have anything else to do. (Not a lot of murders in Oslo. Maybe that’s why he’s depressed.)
The story slowly, ploddingly, ambles along to its not terribly shocking conclusion. The great J.K. Simmons gets dragged into this for no apparent reason. The film has a decent cast, but they’re wasted here. There’s also some graphic violence, but not attached to much that would attract horror fans.
“The Snowman” does get decent marks for atmosphere — you certainly feel trapped in a bitter, bleak environment as you’re sitting through it. And it does make something of a case for visiting Norway — there are some beautiful scenery and some frightening roads traveling through lovely, stark vistas.
But overall, the movie is an unfocused, muddled mess of undeveloped characters and plot.