When an elite crime squad's lead detective investigates the disappearance of a victim on the first snow of winter, he fears an elusive serial killer may be active again. With the help of a brilliant recruit, the cop must connect decades-old cold cases to the brutal new one if he hopes to outwit this unthinkable evil before the next snowfall.Written by
Katrina L. Harrison
Pretty cool, but should have been an entire season
There doesn't seem to be a lot of love for The Snowman, which is a pity since most of the elements I love about Scandinavian crime drama are there: an overall unglamourous look; icy landscapes; a protagonist with emotional issues and difficulties connecting with other people; gruesome killings; dark family secrets, enough red herrings to fill a small sea, and a surprise twist at the end. In fact, had this been a Norwegian movie, then I think that most people would have praised it as pleasantly non-Hollywood, but now they don't now what to make of it so they give it a critical drubbing. Director Tomas Alfredson (of Tinker Tailer Sodier Spy fame) knows how to put the elements together in the best tradition of series like The Killing (Forbrydelsen) and The Bridge (Bron) and films like The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (Män Som Hatar Kvinnor), but, to be fair, The Snowman is also the lesser of this group.
Much of that can be blamed on production issues. Apparently, Alfredson got involved late in the production, and large parts of the screenplay were not even filmed. Judging from scenes that are in the trailer and missing from the movie, editor Thelma Schoonmaaker (of Goodfellas fame) may have had a hard time to make a version that is at least coherent. Still, some sequences in the movie noticeably take their time for set-up, sometimes to little avail, as if essential parts are missing; other scenes, especially the climax and the epilogue, are too fast-paced to the point of feeling rushed. I haven't read the book but I have been told that Harry Hole is much more eccentric and complex than we get to see here. Michael Fassbender is an excellent actor, but I would have loved to see more of his troubles, other than his alcoholism and lack of remembering appointments.
The best treatment for The Snowman probably would have been an entire miniseries, preferably with Norwegian actors. It would have given ample exposure to Harry's character, his interactions with suspects, and time to explore the subplots that are now only touched upon, especially the ones involving Val Kilmer, Toby Jones and J.K. Simmons, who get way too little to do. It kind of feels as if the makers tried to cut 10 hours worth of top television into a 2-hr feature. That said, I do not recognize some of the criticism that the film is utterly incomprehensible and its characters all over the place. Undoubtedly, many people are only familiar with heavily Americanized remakes of Scandinavian crime dramas where everything tends to be clear and everyone is rather normal. I would advise those people to watch a genuine one from Scandinavia, with subtitles, made by local actors and crew. Enigmatic, ambiguous characters who cannot be defined by a single character trait, and a measure of ambiguity in the plot should be part of the deal.
A final plus is that the makers used their budget for some breathtaking shots of Norway's scenery, something that would have been difficult to realize on a television budget. This movie is certainly not perfect, but it has some great tense moments, and it saves you a ticket for a holiday to Norway.
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