Hebe Hamilton reviews the film adaptation of Jo Nesbo’s novel.
I must confess: I have never read any of Jo Nesbo’s books. Initially upon watching the trailer for The Snowman in the cinema, I had high hopes. The film promised a creepy murder-mystery, with a strong cast to complement it. Fast-forward to its release and the dismal reviews littered the internet, at odds with what I had viewed in the trailer. More worryingly, if I liked it, what does that say about my taste in films?
Therefore, heading into the cinema in anticipation, all I could think was: what am I letting myself in for?
The film initially presents itself much like a new Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, complete with suspense, murder, Scandinavian settings, and an amateur detective / journalist. This time our amateur comes in the form of Michael Fassbender, who plays the central protagonist Harry Hole. He is supported by fellow journalist Katrine Bratt (Rebecca Ferguson), and the duo work together to attempt to uncover the perpetrator behind a series of murders of neglectful mothers in Oslo and Bergen. The only clue to his identity is a string of snowmen he leaves at the scenes of his crimes.
The cast features Toby Jones, Chloe Sevigny, and J.K. Simmons in supporting roles, all giving strong performances as always. The scenery and cinematography is stellar: sweeping landscapes of snowy Norwegian mountains, the fjords, and the city of Bergen and the bay around it. So where does the film go wrong?
The plotline, or lack thereof, is the biggest issue. There is no singular continuous storyline throughout the film. This itself is not necessarily a sin: Quentin Tarantino famously uses non-linear storylines in some of his greatest films, framed in ‘chapter’ sequences. However, the difference between Tarantino’s masterpieces and The Snowman is that it is clear that Tarantino’s chapters are individual pieces of one major plotline.
In The Snowman, on the other hand, there are too many plot threads running against each other to maintain focus on the main story at hand: finding the culprit. First, we are faced with a tragic prologue, featuring a young boy (Leonard Samuelsson Heinemann) who loses his mother (Sofia Helin) when she drowns herself, clearly foreshadowing the events to come. Then there is the backstory of Katrine Bratt’s father (Val Kilmer), who attempted to uncover the identity of the Snowman murderer in Bergen, eight years before the main events of the film. Then there is Simmons’s Arve Stop, and his team’s bid for Oslo to become the next host of the Winter Olympics (this section never really makes sense in the narrative and has little connection to the other parts). On top of this, we see Harry Hole attempting to resolve his relationship with his ex-girlfriend (Charlotte Gainsbourgh), her son, Oleg (Michael Yates) and her new partner, Mathias (Jonas Karlsson).
To put it simply, there is too much going on at once for us to get a sense of the serial killer’s story, because it is marred by irrelevant interjections from the juxtaposing storylines.
The ending is also a total disappointment. After the building web of stories finally starts to come together, and the killer’s identity is revealed, what initially promises to be a worthy showdown between Harry Hole and the killer ends prematurely when the killer (rather conveniently) falls through a hole in the ice. This abrupt ending is a disappointing anticlimax, and the final nail in the coffin of a film which fails to deliver on suspense, action and even drama.
The Snowman is now showing in UK cinemas.