29 October 2017

Review: The Snowman

(Dir: Tomas Alfredson, 2017)

The right setting can make such a difference to a film. The coldness and snow-adorned beauty of Norway (primarily Oslo and Bergen) feels an essential part of The Snowman, and not because of the significance of the titular creations. It feels all-encompassing in its starkness as you are effectively transported there, but without any of the negative aspects, as you sit cocooned (hopefully) in a warm place. The setting feels as much a character as the actors on screen. The lead is Michael Fassbender's Harry Hole, a deeply flawed detective who seemingly means to do right, but struggles following through with that intent. Fassbender is compelling to watch as ever, but it feels as if we're just skating the surface of this character without digging as deep as we could or should, which is probably only a complaint from those of us who have never read any of Jo Nesbø's books featuring him. Elsewhere, Rebecca Ferguson's Katrine has strong potential but ends up in the realm of being a little too obvious, Charlotte Gainsbourg's Rakel is curiously flawed in a way that Gainsbourg seems to play so well, and who knows what the hell Val Kilmer is doing with his character!

As with the cast, the story has a lot of potential, sometimes managing to deliver despite never feeling new or fresh. It remains an intriguing mystery to follow and is engaging up to the final denouement which comes about with a whimper, somewhat appropriately but that's equally unsatisfying. This is the conundrum with The Snowman – it's flawed and lacks originality, but it is an enjoyable film to watch mostly due to the Norwegian setting and the unrushed pace director Tomas Alfredson takes, not to mention decent cinematography and sound/music. One you get over the jarring nature of Hollywood actors playing Norwegian characters in that very country, which causes some of the cultural elements of the story to lose resonance (as with the remake of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo), it easy enough to go with it, despite it offering nothing remotely new or revelatory. Move it to more familiar settings however (ie North America), and something in the story would no doubt be lost.

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