When it comes to the career of Michael Fassbender, it’s a very strange mixed bag of brilliant films and mind-bogglingly bad ones and while many great actor have mixed bag careers, Fassbender just jumps around the spectrum so drastically and so often that you can’t help but take notice. All that I had heard about this film upon release was that people disliked it because it was a mess, although with colossal messes like Justice League, The Book of Henry, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword and Alien: Covenant being released this past year I had gotten used to these big movies that are giant narrative messes, I didn’t think that anything else could shock me. While all of those films I named were complete fucking blunders of tone and story flow, I was very wrong in this case. This is more comparable to Justice League, but even the way that The Snowman fucks up its story is baffling in its own right. Now it’s time to grab my Vodka-filled water bottle and try to figure out how to explain this trainwreck to you.
Michael Fassbender plays Inspector Harry Hole–Yeah that’s where his career is at now, he’s choosing characters named Inspector Harry Hole–a drunk and a low-life who gets wrapped up in a new case when a mysterious killer begins killing women and building snowmen in their front yards, I guess? When he teams up with a new recruit played by Rebecca Ferguson, they discover that this may not be the first time that they’ve had to hunt down The Snowman killer, or something? They follow a bunch of Red Herrings and eventually the movie ends.
Before I jump into the pile of problems that is The Snowman, I want to show some respect to aspects of the film that I did enjoy. I’ll admit that they really like overusing that B-roll footage of driving in the snow but it truly looks gorgeous, the cinematography is wonderful when it comes to any scenes filmed outside (the interiors are a bit more flat and dull to look at). The film has great atmosphere all around, it really sets up a world that I desperately want to get sucked into, with the music playing a big role in that. Marco Beltrami’s score, although sometimes inappropriate, is solid. It may not quite fit in some scenes but it has more personality than anything else in The Snowman. I also want to give props to Rebecca Ferguson, who delivers the only performance in this that isn’t terrible. I’ll also give props to the sound effect that they use for the killer’s device when it’s tightening, the sound is enough to get some tension going in sequences that are otherwise devoid of any kind of tension or pulse.
Alright, now the compliments are out of the way. To begin simply, this movie is the definition of “going through the motions”. The characters are investigating and doing cop work and showing me everything that these movies are supposed to have, except for character or anything to attach me to what’s going on. Some guy is killing some women so now some guy and some woman must hunt that man down before he kills more women. I’m sure several great movies could be simplified down to that description, my problem is that’s all that’s in this movie without any kind of pulse or tight pacing or semblance of personality to make it unique. This movie lacks any sort of drive, it’s a fucking skeleton of a movie and it’s not at all shocking to hear that a chunk of the film never made it in front of the camera. I can’t wait for years down the line when this gets more underground notoriety and we finally get the true story from the cast and crew about what happened behind the scenes.
the whole cast here is terrible, outside of Rebecca Ferguson, with Michael Fassbender looking completely lost in every scene he’s in. Fassbender’s face is Tommy Wiseau level of “Why the fuck are you looking at me like that?”. You could take the film as it is and change absolutely nothing except switch out Michael Fassbender and replace him with Rowan Atkinson as Johnny English and it fits. Even JK Simmons is horrible in this, his British accent is frustratingly terrible. For these issues, I’m not even looking to blame the actors, I have my eyes on director Tomas Alfredson—director of critically acclaimed films such as Let the Right One In and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (the second of which was nominated for Best Picture at that year’s Academy Awards). How Alfredson was not able to wring out even a single drop of enthusiasm from anybody except Rebecca Ferguson is mind-boggling to me. Charlotte Gainsbourg is another actress who is extremely talented but gives a bizarre performance here, almost every time she speaks she sounds like she’s drunk. That being said, this may be an example of a performance chopped up in editing because there are scenes where she’s obviously drinking wine or drinking something out of a mug that could be coffee or it could be whiskey, but whether that was an intentional character trait or not it doesn’t matter because that doesn’t go anywhere. Her being drunk in the story has nothing to do with anything going on, it’s never brought up or made to seem like an issue, nobody mentions it nor do they use any strong visual clues to solidify it as a thing.
Speaking of things that don’t pay off, there is a lot of that going on in this movie. Plot threads are started with Red Herrings that have absolutely no pay off and leave you asking yourself “Wait, so what the fuck was going on with that character?”. Every single Red Herring in this story is so painfully obvious that you’re left with a small handful of people who could be the killer and it’s very easy to narrow it down, either way you won’t give a shit by the time it’s all revealed in the end. It’s not just the Red Herrings that bog down this story though, there’s a whole flashback subplot with Val Kilmer that is bizarre and utterly pointless. I don’t know if Val Kilmer has had some health issues recently but he’s not looking his best in this, that’s not the issue though, however he looks his character doesn’t need to be crammed into this story the way he is. I get the whole “Show, don’t tell” thing, but the way that his scenes are jam-packed into this is jarring and when you finally understand how he connects to everything, it’s a big ‘ole “Wait, that’s it!?”. It doesn’t even end there though, not only do his scenes feel totally disjointed from the already messy movie but it’s not even him delivering his lines. For whatever reason, during post-production, they decided to dub over Val Kilmer’s dialogue with the voice of somebody who is very obviously not Val Kilmer. The voice doesn’t match with Kilmer’s delivery, nor does it even sound like that voice is coming from that room—it’s like an Austin Powers bit. It’s embarrassing. It doesn’t help that they not only have that terrible dub, they also try to have Kilmer say as much of his dialogue off screen as possible.
To wrap it up, don’t watch The Snowman unless you’re like me and you’re fascinated by train wrecks like this. For you cinematic masochists out there, you’re the one group of people out there I would “recommend” this to, anybody else can scroll right on past this one at the Redbox. Outside of some great music and cinematography, this is an embarrassment of a movie that’s only made worse considering the talented cast and crew attached. Boring characters, a jumbled mystery, terrible performances and laughable moments of dialogue are all this film is and yet somehow summing it all up like that just doesn’t do it justice. Whatever the mess you think this is in your head, it’s worse. I’ve watched the movie twice to prepare for this review and it’s truly a mind-numbing experience but worth it simply if you’re as fascinated with bullshit like this as I am.
The Snowman is currently available to own to via VOD services, available for rental beginning January 16th