By Mark Saldana
Rating: 2 (Out of 4 Stars)
Based on the novel by Jo Nesbø, The Snowman introduces movie audiences to the character of Harry Hole, a Norwegian detective working on a serial murder case. Tomas Alfredson, the acclaimed director of Let the Right One In, helms this problematic adaptation that apparently was plagued by production troubles, a rushed shooting schedule and reshoots that barely salvaged the project. The movie mostly works as watchable piece with great performances by the cast. However, awkward pacing and editing, along with some transparent and predictable story elements obviously reflect the problems and obstacles faced by the filmmakers during its production.
Michael Fassbender stars as Harry Hole, a lead detective of Oslo’s elite crime division. Harry used to have a stellar reputation as a brilliant crime investigator, but in recent years, alcoholism has affected the quality of his work. A rookie detective named Katrine Bratt (Rebecca Ferguson) joins the squad and is to work under Hole’s supervision. Harry and Katrine take on a serial killer case targeting seemingly happy mothers where the killer leaves a snowman near the crime scene. Harry comes to the realization that the recent murders might be connected with an old cold case crime and possibly involves a high profile businessman named Arve Stop (JK Simmons). Harry and Katrine try to fill in the missing pieces of their case before the killer strikes again.
With a screenplay by Hossein Amini, Peter Straughan, and Søren Sveistrup, Tomas Alfredson’s adaptation is a somewhat messy movie whose rough jagged edges are pretty evident in certain scenes and sequences. The movie has an odd pace at times, and certain takes that make the movie play out rather awkwardly. It appears that certain scenes were the only usable takes in the film and were used in spite of their clumsiness. The story itself doesn’t offer audiences anything new in terms of serial murder thrillers either. Another issue I have is that as I watched everything play out, I found myself solving certain mysteries of the story before the characters do.
I did find the characters of the story quite interesting and their personal struggles compelling, but much of this is probably owed to the book that inspires the film. The excellent acting by Fassbinder and Ferguson also really adds to the development of their characters and kept me invested. The film also has fine acting by Charlotte Gainsbourg, Jonass Karlsson, Michael Yates, JK Simmons, Genevieve O’Reilly, James D’Arcy, Toby Jones, David Dencik and Val Kilmer.
Should this film achieve financial success and inspire another installment, I hope that the producers allow the filmmakers to have the necessary time and money to make a good movie. The troubled production and sloppy attempts to salvage the movie really made a difference on the finished product. I feel that the potential for a decent crime movie franchise that follows the work of Harry Hole is there. Like all things in life, movies require the necessary time, work, and passion to get it right. This movie, which was lacking in some of these elements, suffers as a result.