An elite, alcoholic detective named Harry Hole (Michael Fassbender) investigates the murder of a young mother in Oslo. The case seems to be connected with other files which are decades old, as all are linked by disappearances after the first snowfall of winter and mysterious snowmen turning up at the scene. He recruits Katrine Bratt (Rebecca Ferguson) as his partner and primary confidante.
It’s pretty clear from the outset that The Snowman is attempting to mimic the success of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series and Nordic noir, a new trend which can be seen in television series such as The Killing, Borgen and The Bridge. This fairly recent genre (which is essentially Scandinavian crime drama) has proven to be popular both nationally and globally. It is associated with tense ambiences and gripping narratives that audiences evidently love. There’s something about a snowy landscape that lends itself well to compelling drama - heck, we saw it just recently in Wind River too.
Based on Jo Nesbo’s book of the same name, The Snowman, like its Scandinavian predecessors, delivers on tension and atmosphere. It is intriguing and taps into some contemporary social debates in interesting ways. However, it suffers from being unnecessarily convoluted at times. There are some striking shots, and Norway is magnificently framed, but the editing feels rushed and ends up having something of a jarring effect. Moreover, the final act is a complete mess and feels like the lame, cheesy ending of a crappy Agatha Christie knock-off.
The film has made numerous changes to the original novel which have also worked to its detriment. Supporting characters played by the likes of J.K. Simmons, Toby Jones and Val Kilmer – all of whom we know to be talented thespians – never feel properly integrated into the plot and seem pointless in the end.
As the lead actress, Rebecca Ferguson does well but it’s poor aul Michael Fassbender you feel has been the most hard done by. God love him, Fassbender puts his heart and soul into every role he’s given and consistently churns out great performances. As Harry, he brings the potency and intrigue that are necessary for the role. In fact, the actor has always proven himself highly adaptable, taking on a variety of roles over his career. However, he hasn’t really had a hit in recent years, despite being Oscar-nominated for Steve Jobs (aside from X-Men: Apocalypse, which did well at the box office, but Fassbender just seems embarrassed of playing Magneto). At least his latest film isn’t as bad as Assassin’s Creed.