It’s not nice to see a director as talented as Tomas Alfredson make something as terrible as The Snowman. His previous two films, Let The Right One In and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, are the work of a director with innate skill for patiently unfurling plot and digging deep into complex characters. The Snowman, sadly, is just a slushy old mess that seems to have entirely slipped out of his control.
Based on the novel by Jo Nesbo, this has Michael Fassbender as Norwegian detective Harry Hole (did nobody question how that name sounded in an English accent?). He’s a drunk who’s taken his eye off the job, but gets hooked back in by a note from a killer who signs off with a little sketch of a snowman. Hole’s assisted by mysterious rookie Katrine (Rebecca Ferguson). Together they attempt to track down a man who’s been killing women, apparently indiscriminately, and we attempt to keep up with what on earth’s going on.
Frequently it’s simply not possible to follow the plot because much of it isn’t there. The connective tissue required for any film, but especially a murder mystery, is so often missing. Harry and Katrine arrive at locations with absolutely no explanation, apparently following clues kept hidden from the audience. They’ll drop in at a fancy society do and find a suspect, but why they went there is anybody’s guess. Characters are introduced as part of the mystery – notably a young woman locked in a strange house – and then they disappear, unexplained. It plays as if entire scenes are missing. Even individual scenes jump around madly, edited so that characters cross rooms in fractions of a second. It’s bonkers.
Extremely talented people worked on this movie. Screenwriters Hossein Amini and Peter Straughan wrote, respectively, Drive and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Editor Thelma Schnoonmaker has worked on most of Martin Scorsese’s movies, including Raging Bull – Raging Bull! Somehow all that talent adds up to nothing. This is supposed to be an edge-of-the-seat murder mystery. The only mystery here is how on earth this movie happened.