Thursday, 19 October 2017

Film Review: Tomas Alfredson's The Snowman adaptation is about as bad as crime thrillers come


Tomas Alfredson once directed Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Let's just pause for a moment and let that sink in.

Tinker Tailor Solider Spy is a superb film. It takes its time with its pacing but never feels dull, it coaxes tremendous performances out of its terrific ensemble cast, it builds to a climax filled with twists and revelations and shocks - and it lands every last one of them. The Snowman, Alfredson's latest film, has all the ingredients to do exactly the same thing, but it's executed with the style and charisma of soggy bread - everything's just a bit limp, and you'd probably rather not go near it again.

Adapted from Jo Nesbo's famous book, The Snowman is a crime thriller about a dishevelled detective named Harry Hole (Michael Fassbender) who is caught up in a series of cases in which the murderer leaves a snowman at the scene of the crime. There's more to the story than that, but it's ultimately not really worth exploring. The Snowman takes every inch of its potential - a good director, a terrific lead actor, a strong supporting cast, an icily atmospheric setting - and throws them all together with so little precision and so much unintentional chaos that I barely even know where to start discussing it. 

Michael Fassbender is one of the best actors working today, but boy is he having a rough year. Between the bomb of Assassins Creed, the sheer mess of Alien: Covenant, and now this, well I'd hate to be the guy's agent right now. Fassbender is usually capable of adding depth to lacklustre scripts (see: Trespass Against Us and Prometheus) but he just seems bored here. He gives little insight into his character, every line appears read off a script. Hole is a dull enough character as it is, but Fassbender lowers him into unbearable territory - every time you think Hole simply cannot grow more insufferable, Fassbender is on hand to ensure that he does.

Even before the main story kicks off, The Snowman is a mess. Its opening flashback scene is all over the place: the framing lacks any thought; the editing is jarringly inconsistent; shots even appear to be missing between pieces of dialogue. Alfredson has gone on record to state that they were indeed rushed into production without a completed script, but anyone paying any attention could've realised this without his clarification - Val Kilmer's in the film, but the voice that comes out of his mouth certainly doesn't belong to him. That'll be perplexing me for months, it's about the film's only memorable trait. Even later on most of the action scenes are diabolically executed, with horribly forced choreography and very little directorial interest in framing the fights with even an ounce of tension.

The ending is also foreseeable a mile off, and while this can sometimes make the journey more fun, here it just adds to the sheer dullness of what you're experiencing. There's no excitement to the film, no tension or personality or intrigue. Every character is a stereotype, every twist is painstakingly obvious, every moment of action makes you long for the scene to end: there's just nothing here with any oomph to it. Once you strip away the film's admittedly spectacular settings (at least the location scout did their job well, good on you buddy, not that the rest of the film actually does anything with them) you're left with the cinematic equivalent of a deflated balloon sat at the top of a bin: there was probably some life here once, but now it just all looks a little bit sad.


In A Sentence

From its dull performances to its woefully lacklustre execution in every regard, The Snowman is a crime thriller that's missing everything you want from a film of its kind.



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