Lots of snow movies lately! The latest is The Snowman, based on the Jo Nesbo thriller. I have enough experience with “Scandi Noir” that I read the book first, to be sure there isn’t anything in it that would put me off seeing the film. The book is truly awful. Possibly this is partially due to translation, but it was the structure that really turned me off: rambling and non-linear. It also has a thread of misogyny i find hard to stomach. But bad books have been turned into good films before. The director, Tomas Alfredson, also made Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and Let Me In, both of which I enjoyed.
What did I think?
Well, it’s better than I found the book, and I know that sound like damning with faint praise so let me quickly add that I did enjoy it. The cast is made up of extremely talented actors Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson and Charlotte Gainsbourg lead, with supporting cast including JK Simmons, Chloe Sevigny, Toby Jones and James D’Arcy. Not sure why Val Kilmer was cast; he’s a poor actor when he’s not phoning it in and in this he’s definitely phoning it in. Or maybe even that’s giving him too much credit; some of his lines are so badly dubbed they must have been redone in post-production. But: great cast.
The cinematography is good and while I think how viewers react to the snowmen will vary by person, speaking for myself I found them creepy and the moment when Fassbender looks down to see on imprinted on the roof of a car was one of the moments when the suspense really worked.
The twist…well, I spoiled it for myself by reading the book first but that let me pay attention to how they handled the character. It was a good mix of ordinary with just a few hints of creepiness.
The film structure isn’t as tangled as the book though it wasn’t always obvious which bits were past and which present. The story is tighter and enough has been changed to keep some surprises and make the twists much more believable. But not enough to really save it. I never felt fully involved in the world and toward the end the pace started to drag and I got restless.
It’s also more gory in places and less, um, detective-like than the trailer implies. Some lines and moments in the trailer are not in the final cut of the film and that makes a big difference, at least to me, to how I perceive the finished product.
Verdict: don’t rush to buy a ticket, but worth a look when it hits streaming or TV.