Cast: Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, Chloe Sevigny, Val Kilmer, J.K. Simmons, and Charlotte Gainsbourg
Director: Thomas Alfredson
Synopsis: Detective Harry Hole investigates the disappearance of a woman whose pink scarf is found wrapped around an ominous-looking snowman.
What most murder mysteries like Se7en and Zodiac do well, is that they manage to grip the audience and make them feel involved instantly. The Snowman however, fails at bringing out any emotion from the audience early on because of the bewildering opening! Only if you choose to stay throughout the whole film will the improbable and unnecessary opening scene be explained. Even then you’ll still be left scratching your head.
After the credits roll, you’re left asking more questions than before you even saw it, Questioning the relevance of some scenes that seem useless or unfinished. Why are they there? well you will never know! Why does the killer choose snowmen as their calling card? that’s never revealed either.
In all honesty, The Snowman is a mess. An unfinished mess. Great potential is what lays beneath, but amateur post production is it’s Achilles heel. Its frustrating how questions you want answered, do not get answered! Maybe this was Thomas Alfredson’s goal, to make you question scene after scene after scene, but it feels rushed, it’s clear there was pressure from the studio to get it completed for an October release. Unfortunately, the finished product turned out to be a slight disappointment.
Contrary to my first point though, the film excels in tone and mood, which DOES hook the audience regardless of whether some scenes are implausible or not. The locations were immersive, there is a sense of isolation and loneliness throughout. The surrounding snow makes you feel as if there is no hope. It was a perfect setting for a haunting mystery; remote and distant. The gore, though rarely used, is effective and not over done, there is no absurdity about it, and the effect of this is a boost in realism and a shivering sense of dread, again, The Snowman is excellent at this!
Michael Fassbender plays a clichéd rough; dirty, alcoholic former police detective – and because he is Michael Fassbender, the performance is excellent! The character is realistic and portrayed perfectly, however the films lack of success will ensure an undeserving Oscar snub. Rebecca Ferguson as the female lead is also surprisingly good. Again, she’s relatable and realistic. Her character is clever and intelligent, and she teams with Harry (Michael Fassbender) to solve the recurring crime of violent brutality. The pairs chemistry is unnoticeable as both characters are too serious or damaged to bring out any real emotion (except a couple of scenes) but this is a good thing. Their characters are also far too mysterious, as there is no development whatsoever, so you don’t feel attached to them or actually care what their fate is!
The score was the films biggest success by far. Marco Beltrami’s composition is eerie and loud when it needs to be, and more subtle when required. A sense of atmosphere is created because of this, which leads all the way up to the unoriginal but satisfying climax.
Also, the vast landscapes look fantastic. The whole film seems like it took inspiration from the Coen Brothers’ masterpiece: Fargo (1996) for it’s visual style.
Overall, The Snowman has great pace. Maybe it requires multiple viewings to get the most out of it? Maybe it will be considered underrated in the future? hopefully this is the case, as upon first viewing it doesn’t live up to the vast anticipation set. However the tone is definitely there, and the mystery keeps you guessing right up until the reveal. The Snowman isn’t bad. In fact it’s quite good! It’s immersive, and the plot is captivating. Definitely not original, neither does it bring anything new to the table, but what is does bring, is an effective murder mystery filled with great performances!