Let Hell freeze over
Have you ever seen a car wreck? I have. I have personally been involved in one nasty one in my life. The worst part about a wreck is that afterwards, you could have seen how easily avoidable it all was. I’m sure a similar thought process must have gone through the actors, director, writer, and producers of The Snowman, the film adaptation of Jo Nesbø’s critically acclaimed airport novel. Now readers of the book must be asking themselves: “wait, how could this critic have hated such a great story?” The answer, my hypothetical fan, is that I do not hate the story. I simply hated the living fuck out of the execution of what may very well be the most inept, big budget, Hollywood film I have seen all year.
But we get ahead of ourselves. Our story concerns the misadventures of Norwegian detective, Harry Hole (Michael Fassbender, who seriously has not been having a good time), as he gets assigned to a case involving multiple women having disappeared. The connection between the victims all appear to be the fact they were all mothers who had rocky relationships with their spouses while all disappearing on a night snow fell…and a snowman seems to be left wherever the victim was last seen. Hole gets assigned a young protege named Katherine (Rebecca Ferguson) as they attempt to track down the missing women until they start finding them with missing body parts. The race is then on to find the killer as they sort through a plethora of red herrings, one of which is J.K. Simmons (Academy Award winner, bee tee dubs) doing an absurd accent, that I believe is supposed to be Norwegian but ends up coming across as poor British. Also, fifty or so subplots get thrown at you and are quickly dropped because the filmmakers never properly shot everything they were supposed to…that’s not a joke.
The director, Tomas Alfredson, who also directed Let the Right One In and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, basically admitting that the film is sub-par is one thing; the producers having released this incomplete thriller is another thing entirely. Missing scenes that flesh out major character moments isn’t particularly new, but the fact that we have a movie where whole pieces of a murder mystery are missing is frankly unforgivable. You can’t be expected to figure out how the protagonist deduced the identity of the killer if you don’t properly have all the clues that lead him to the conclusion, and further you can’t be deceived into falling for any red herrings if you don’t have proper and persuasive scenes that raise false flags.
By the way, I didn’t link Batman v. Superman casually either, this movie is an absolute editing disaster on par with one of my worst of last year, Rules Don’t Apply. Scene transitions occur haphazardly, so you’re never 100% certain how much time has elapsed between scenes and you’re also never clear where exactly you are at any given moment. Further, scenes are awkwardly cut to the point that certain characters are introduced, given some importance by the camera, and are then never seen again for the duration of the picture. Worse still is when the movie begins flirting with flashbacks that was so poorly delivered that I couldn’t make heads or tails of the purpose of said scenes until discussing it with others online. Speaking of which, these flashbacks also feature Val Kilmer and…oh Christ, this film screws the man over royally.
I’m dedicating a paragraph to his character because it’s frankly baffling these scenes were included in the final product. You could have cut his scenes out entirely and still have had a slightly more coherent movie; though admittedly, not by much. What’s more, something was very, VERY wrong with Kilmer on screen. There’s approximately about 30 seconds of him in this two hour picture where you actually see his lips move, but the voice you hear isn’t properly synced with what you see. Another critic has even speculated that the voice heard wasn’t even Kilmer’s real voice, for what reason we will never know. Whatever the reason, his scenes inclusion only made this mess of a movie even harder to decipher, which is ironic considering the identity of the killer is almost readily apparent the suspect enters the frame.
I mean it doesn’t help that the film may have just as well as printed out over the character’s head, “He’s the killer,” upon their introduction and save us the experience of having to sit through two hours of waiting for the shoe to drop. He oozes slime and looks creepier than J.K. Simmons’ character, who literally takes cell phone pictures of girls he wants to screw in front of their faces but dispatches henchmen to go up to these women and invite them to his room…while right in front of him. He couldn’t have just…I don’t know…asked them himself? Whatever, him and every other red herring is so obviously and cartoonishly evil, that it sucks you right out of the damn picture. Friggin’ Happy Death Day, a shoestring budget, campy horror flick managed to give a more fascinating mystery than an adaptation of a well-regarded novel from an author known for crafting intricate and multi-layered mysteries.
But what is a true mystery is Michael Fassbender’s performance in this tank of elephant diarrhea. I don’t what the hell he was going for between mumbling the majority of his lines and looking doped up with horse tranquilizers. On top of that, he and the movie lay the fact that his character is an alcoholic in the most inept way imaginable. Despite winding up passed out drunk in the middle of the sidewalk, you never actually see Fassbender so much as take a shot in this picture. I raised a similar concern with Colossal earlier this year, but that film was also far more concerned with the fact the main character was blacking out constantly and they did at least put a full beer bottle in her hand. Hell, The Girl on the Train had the nerve to at least show your protagonist was drinking from a thermos bottle filled with vodka and how that affected her day to day life. The Snowman, oddly, doesn’t bother to show you how Harry Hole’s alcoholism even affects his personal life all that much. His day job and a new reliance on pills do that for him, so the whole alcoholism angle is basically there for its own sake.
Rebecca Ferguson doesn’t fare much better but not for lack of trying, mind you, but because the script doesn’t do her any favors. Her character does something amazingly moronic towards the end by attempting to seduce one of the prime suspects…while off-duty because she was suspended…and telling no one where the hell she was going in the event the suspected killer (who has gladly offed anyone who got too close to his tracks) flips the table on her. Further, despite some major revelations being dropped about her character, the film does nothing with this information to change her behavior or allow us to understand her in anyway because the movie did such a piss poor job of establishing her personality during the run time. To top it all off, the film is unintentionally ambiguous as to what fate ultimately befalls her character.
One gentle compliment before I drive the last stake laced with arsenic through this film’s dead heart: the cinematography was nice at times with some genuinely striking imagery in a couple of moments. Granted, the trailer also had some great moments as well that were strangely cut from the theatrical version that would have helped things more suspenseful or perhaps more jarring, but it now just appears to be an outright lie to sucker people into seats. The decent shots are, nonetheless, drops of sweat used to sustain myself in the desert of terrible decisions that completely hamstrung this film, all culminating in a single conclusion: it’s boring as hell. To do the exact opposite of a thriller is enough for me to resent this movie; but the mediocre acting, the terrible editing, the phenomenally dumb character decisions, and the confusing structure of the narrative drop this film into my worst of the year territory.
Oh yes, children, this movie deserves such derision that films like The Emoji Movie and Death Note (2017) look comparatively better. It edges far closer in terms of awfulness to Rings and The Book of Henry. I’m not surprised the director of this film has basically admitted he made a piece of shit because he was forced to a tight shooting schedule in which many critical scenes are missing, but the blame needs to be shared among the writers, the cast, and especially the producers for what they have wrought upon our world. I despise this movie completely, so much so that only one rating is appropriate…
FUCK THIS MOVIE