Review - The Snowman

The Snowman (2017), R, 1h 59min - After I finished reading IT a few weeks back, I set my sights on this novel by Jo Nesbø, with hopes of finishing it before the movie hit theaters.  I ended up finishing the source material this past Sunday, which kept me from catching it on opening weekend.  But honestly I ended up being even more intrigued by the film after seeing that it was receiving less than stellar reviews along with its sub-par performance at the box office.  Thanks to an odd day off from work, I was able to see Tomas Alfredson's big screen adaptation yesterday afternoon, and while I feel as though the casting of characters was pretty good, the film itself is a bit disjointed and anti-climactic.

The Snowman is based on the seventh of Nesbø's series of novels focusing on the exploits of Dectective Harry Hole (Michael Fassbender) of the Oslo (Norway) Police Department.  Hole and Katrine Bratt (Rebecca Ferguson), a recent transfer into the department, begin working a series of missing persons cases that turn out to be victims of a serial killer who strikes repeatedly when the year's first snow falls.  The same basic plot is carried over to the film from the book, although the killer's motivations differ.  The movie takes liberties with the story in an effort - I can only assume - to simplify a complex plot in order to keep the run time down to a manageable two hours.  I feel as though the changes made for the movie could have worked, but there are too many shortcuts and abandoned or shoehorned story elements as the story progresses, causing problems for the film as a whole (I will discuss some that stood out to me in the spoiler section below).

The cast is full of recognizable names.  J.K. Simmons (Arve Støp), Val Kilmer (Rafto), Toby Jones (DC Svensson), James D'Arcy (Filip Becker), and Chloë Sevigny (Sylvia Otterson/Ane Pederson) along with Fassbender and Ferguson.  For the most part, the performances felt true to the characters being portrayed in my opinion.  Unfortunately they are betrayed by the story provided, or at the very least by the final edit of their work.

As the film opened to less than stellar reviews, director Tomas Alfredson commented that production was rushed and it was like putting a puzzle together without all of the pieces (I'm paraphrasing this article on www.independent.co.uk).  The funny thing about this is that at one point in the film, Harry tells Katrine that "you can't force the pieces to fit!".  Which is essentially what seems to have happened with this theatrical adaptation.  It's as though pieces of the story from the book were forced to fit with the pieces changed for the film, creating a mismatched mess.

It really is unfortunate, because Nesbø's novel is very good.  With the talent involved in making this film at every level (Martin Scorsese was a producer), I'm surprised that it didn't turn out better than it did.  The Snowman, on film at least, is definitely a case of unfulfilled potential.  If you've read the book and are curious about the film, it may be worth your time just for comparison's sake as a rental (emphasis on the word may).  But if you haven't, I would highly recommend reading the book instead.  The film succeeds in bringing the character of Harry Hole to life, and in being a passable mystery/thriller (despite the deviations from the book) until the end, at which point it's as if someone just lost interest in completing their puzzle.   I'd be very interested in comparing notes with someone who has seen the film but was unfamiliar with the book to see if they felt that it was lacking in the same regards that I did, or if I may just be unfairly clinging to the book having just finished reading it.











*****SPOILERS*****

- First things first...the ending was terribly anti-climactic.  Harry chases Mathias down and basically tells him that his anger has been misplaced.  That he should have felt abandoned by his father, not his mother.  So he should have gone on a man-killing murder spree instead?  Not only that, but without even reacting to what Harry has said, Mathias falls through the ice and apparently drowns.  Harry runs back to check on Rakel (Charlotte Gainsburg) and Oleg (Michael Yates) for two seconds.  Then we get a short scene in which we see Harry take another case.  Two hours of build-up for that?  What?

- This movie seems to be meant as a franchise-launching film.  The last scene blatantly sets up Hole's next case, and from the description given sounds likely to lead into the next novel in the series titled 'The Leopard' (I'm basing this on the synopsis on the back of the book/Goodreads).  Based on this film's lackluster box office performance thus far, I'll be interested to see if another film is made.  I'll also be interested to see how this film performs globally.

- Very similarly to the book, the film opens with what we learn to be the killer's 'origin story'.  This is where the killer's basic motivation is changed.  To be clear, while I don't feel that the differences in these events pack the punch that they do in the novel, I also don't believe that they are necessarily the film's downfall.     

- There are multiple instances of footage in the trailer not actually appearing in the film.  There's one shot of a woman's foot caught in an animal trap (taken from the book) that is nowhere to be found in the film.  Also the burning building in the trailer does not occur in either the book or the film.

- In the book Mathias is captured and sent to prison for a life sentence.  It is stated that even if his sentence is shortened, it would likely be a life sentence for him due to a hereditary disease he has.

- Katrine isn't killed in the book.  Her character in relation to The Snowman case is quite a bit more complex than it was shown in the film.  Taking nothing away from Rebecca Ferguson's performance, the character is just utilized differently here.

- The mold inspection guy/imposter is shown on a couple occasions, and much like the book, appears to be a set up for another case.  An Easter egg of sorts like this is usually cool, but when the primary story for this film doesn't even deliver the goods, it is hard to understand why something like this is so deliberately shoe-horned in.

- In the book, the concert that Harry took Oleg to was a Slipknot show.

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