The Snowman – movie review

A wintry wonderland hides dark secrets in the atmospheric thriller The Snowman, which has undertones of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

In the frigid landscape, a sociopath who calls himself “The Snowman Killer” has targeted the one person he wants to appreciate his methodical, unthinkable “skills”. That person is Harry Hole (Michael Fassbender), lead investigator of an elite crime squad. The offender begs to have a worthy opponent with whom to play out his sick game.

For Hole, the murder of a young woman on the first snow of the winter feels like anything but a routine homicide case. From the start of the investigation, the killer has taunted him. His jibes accompany each new vicious slaying. Fearing an elusive serial killer long-thought dead may be active again, Hole enlists brilliant recruit Katrine Bratt (Rebecca Ferguson), to help him connect decades-old cold cases to the brutal new ones.

Succeed, and they will lure the psychopath out from the shadows. Fail, and an unthinkable evil will strike once again during the very next snowfall.

The Snowman is the seventh book in Jo Nesbø’s best-selling Harry Hole series, first published in 2007. The novel took the beleaguered detective and his creator to a new level and readership. It topped The New York Times Best-Seller list and marked Nesbø’s first UK number one.

It takes a while to work out who’s who in The Snowman and just where they fit into the puzzle. The plotting has a labyrinthine feel. The cinematography is arguably the best thing about this film (the director of photography is Dion Beebe). It’s so breathtaking, the Norwegian Tourist Board should prepare for an influx of visitors.

Like so many movies of this genre, the hero of the piece is flawed. In this case, he’s a an addict. But – of course – his brilliant mind is what makes him so valuable.

Although not his best work, Michael Fassbender inhabits the character effortlessly, with a less-is-more performance. Around him, the secondary personas drift in and out of the story, but his is the definite lynchpin. In a strange piece of casting, Val Kilmer is almost unrecognisable. He appears like a punch line gone wrong in a bad joke. His face looks like it has been plied with Botox and his teeth don’t seem to “fit” his face.

Charlotte Gainsbourg (Independence Day: Resurgence) is cast as Harry Hole’s ex, Rakel. Chloe Sevigny (American Horror Story) plays a woman caught up in the atrocities and JK Simmons (Whiplash) is a leading politician.

Too little in The Snowman is explained and not enough makes sense. Scandinavians appear to like their violence raw, and so it is here. Be warned, some scenes are particularly grizzly – a form of torture porn.

Notwithstanding these reservations, the intrigue won me over – not to overlook those extraordinarily beautiful snow-covered mountains and valleys. The Snowman scores a 6½ to 7 out of 10.

Director: Tomas Alfredson
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, Chloe Sevigny, Charlotte Gainsbourg
Release Date: 19 October 2017
Rating: MA 15+

Alex First

Other reviews you might enjoy: