Starring: Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, Charlotte Gainsbourg
Director: Tomas Alfredson
Running Time: 119 mins
The Snowman is a Swedish film about a troubled detective who investigates the mysterious disappearance of a woman, linked with the presence of a snowman.
There are some films that are boring, and some films that are just plain bad. The Snowman is both. A lifeless, meandering and inconsequential two hours of tedium, it’s a film that lacks any semblance of strong drama or tension, not to mention any capacity to use the wealth of talent and technical prowess it has on display, even turning what at first seems like strongly atmospheric visuals into something that will send you to sleep in an instant.
There’s almost nothing that works about The Snowman, from its underwhelming lead performances to its poor story, and from its dragging pacing to its wasted atmospheric potential. So, it’s difficult to find a positive angle to look at it from, but it’s fair to say that, while it doesn’t make good use of it, the film does at least have some good visuals.
I would normally use the word ‘striking’ to describe the windswept, tense greyness of the visuals – in similar fashion to the likes of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo or even The Grey – but given that The Snowman makes such poor use of what should be tense and striking visuals, the best part of the movie is actually just how much it looks like other, much better films.
Wasting any opportunity to use clearly strong technical ability to good effect, the film only does more damage to itself by trying to inject a sense of dramatic gravitas into the mix, only doing so by playing its story out at a painfully slow pace, and being reluctant to let its crime-thriller plot ever play it with any sort of consistency or palpable tension.
Even thrillers with bad, predictable stories can save themselves with a little bit of pace and energy, and while the final conclusion may not be all that satisfying, at least the journey you go on to get to that point is passably enjoyable. However, not only does The Snowman have a rubbish conclusion, but the journey up to that point is awful, and along with its terrible pacing, the movie meanders its way through a main plot that should be far, far simpler.
Attempting to splice together stories from all over the place – the attempts to solve the current mystery, the scars of past traumas, and personal, psychological drama of random characters – The Snowman plays out in painfully messy fashion, and along with predictable, unabsorbing drama throughout, there’s never anything to grab your attention, remarkably achieving the feat of two full hours of film without even one eye-catching moment.
And once again, with such a poor, uninteresting story, I found my mind wandering wildly away from this film, again thinking back to how much better the likes of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (and even The Girl In The Spider’s Web) was in comparison to this.
And finally, despite featuring an A-list cast, not even the performances are up to scratch here. Michael Fassbender lacks energy and presence, Rebecca Ferguson is underused, and less-than-stellar when she is on screen, and supporting players including Toby Jones, J.K. Simmons, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Val Kilmer feel like second-rate amateurs in their various forgettable roles.
Overall, there’s really not much to appreciate about The Snowman. If you’re a fan of a good Nordic thriller, this isn’t the place to look, and while it may spark the odd memory of better films from the genre, watching this meandering, lifeless, underachieving and above all tedious movie unfold is a real waste of time, which is why I’m giving it a 4.3.