Saturday, 14 October 2017

Review: The Snowman

The Snowman
Cert: 15 / 119 mins / Dir. Tomas Alfredson / Trailer

The thing is, right, there are two reasons for cinemas staggering their start-times across a schedule. The main one is so that people aren't all queuing to get into different screens at the same time, and the second is that if you accidentally walk into the wrong screen, you'll instantly know it because the film will be part-way through (ie you won't have to wait through 27 mins of ads and trailers to realise what you've done). So imagine my surprise on Friday afternoon when I arrived in Screen 3 of my local during the pre-trailer adverts only to find that the apparent audience for Tomas Alfredson's visual take on Jo Nesbø's serial killer novel was of a demographic usually reserved for pieces such as Dad's Army and Dunkirk. Nothing intrinsically wrong with that of course (although the rustle of sweet wrappers was an issue throughout, as usual), but I honestly wondered how many of them were thinking this was a reboot of the other Snowman. No walk-outs anyway, so maybe the Silver Cineastes were just up for a bit of good old-fashioned Murder™…

And so to the film, dear reader. Ah. The film. Evidence of Michael Fassbender's poor decision-making skills continues to trickle in, with this cinematic rendering of a highly successful book. Because when you're transferring a series of bestselling thrillers to the big screen, it's always best to start midway through that series. Oh, always. Fassbender plays Harry Hole*1, a barely-functioning alcoholic maverick detective in Oslo, who has to clear the debris from his personal life in order to crack the case of women going missing whenever it snows. He's joined in this task by a wide-eyed trainee Katrine Bratt (Rebecca Ferguson), and they both begin to suspect this is the work of a morally judgemental serial killer.

The plot is solid (if unremarkable) enough, but the dialogue is overwritten, one suspects in a bid to cram a potential 4-6 hour TV drama down into a 2-hour movie. Admittedly, I haven't read the original tome, but it would appear that the deployment of three screenwriters has butchered any thematic symbolism, nuance and indeed logic*2 from the story. Turns in the plot which should probably be revelatory to the audience just feel like Another Thing Happening Now. And as well as seeming derivative of an entire genre of detective fiction, the attempts to 'pace up' what should be a slow, unfolding story are what hurt the film the most.

Fassbender autopilots through it all, by no means a bad performance, but far from everything he's been proven to be capable of. Ferguson tries to elevate her role to that of co-lead, but doesn't have the material to back it up. Meanwhile, performances by child actors here are uniformly dreadful, and Toby Jones and Val Kilmer appear to have completed their roles in an afternoon off from some other job*3, so that the poster can have a couple of extra familiar names.

I'd like to say the The Snowman is grindingly average, but even that would be paying it a not-quite-deserved compliment. and it's hard to imagine anyone other than hardcore fans of Jo Nesbø's novels getting anything out of the final product. Ultimately, I couldn't connect with the film on any emotional level. Even in this thriller's most manipulative moments, I wasn't thrilled. I was barely even interested.

I'm sure everyone involved would like to think they've created something Gritty™, when in actuality The Snowman is just fill of characters that are inherently unlikeable.

I began Friday's cinema visit wondering if I'd walked into the wrong screen. Two and a half hours later, I still didn't have an answer…

So, watch this if you enjoyed?
Things where people wear jumpers and stare out of windows at snow for extended periods of time. Except there are fewer jumpers and fewer windows in this.

Should you watch this in a cinema, though?
The cinema I saw this in projected the film at the wrong aspect ratio, so probably not.
Not that seeing technically less of The Snowman could be classed as a problem, of course

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
I should hope not.

Is this the best work of the cast or director?

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
You'd better be prepared to explain yourself.

Yes, but is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
There's not.

Yes, but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 1: Mon Mothma's in this.

Although she's not credited for it on the film's IMDB page, or on her own.

But her agent's page has her down for The Snowman.
Plus, it's quite obviously her in the film. She's in the trailer and everything.
So what's going on there?

And if I HAD to put a number on it…
This lacklustre tale of a messianic serial killer is hardly Se7en.
I mean it's barely even a Thr3e

*1 Mate, don't... [ BACK ]

*2 I'm not even sure when this is meant to be set. All the main characters are using contemporary iPhones, but the police also carry around portable computers that look like an iPad designed in the 1950s (and whose entire functionality is something that any mid-range tablet can do now anyway, at about a tenth of the size/weight).

Although on a narrative level, so much is left unexplained here. Spoilery discussion: Harry Hole tells his boss there's been no homicide, only missing persons, in the scene just after he finds a woman's severed head in a pit under the house. Why would he lie to his superior about that? Is Birte Becker's body found, or does she just remain missing in perpetuity after that? Is Katrine Bratt dead in the end? That Sylvia Ottersen in the chicken shed was just given a paralysing agent while the murderer cut her head off, and there was no indication that he gave Katrine any more when he removed her finger (which, incidentally, was in incredibly blood-free removal, even for a newly deceased corpse - although the same can be said of the head removal and Sylvia was definitely alive when that happened). [ BACK ]

*3 Speaking of which, It appears that Valentine Kilimanjaro's facial structure has become such a grotesque parody of its former self that the erstwhile Batman can no longer deliver coherent dialogue even on an enclosed set, and has to ADR his lines in post-production. Unfortunately, no-one involved in that process seems to have been looking at any of the actual footage, resulting in the final synchronisation of Val's performances nestling somewhere in the region of 'Saniflo Advert'™. [ BACK ]

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

1 comment:

  1. The olds love their murder mystery novels - I bet they were right on board for the Nesbo.