Film Review: mister police, “The Snowman” melts quickly, he gives you all the clues
I must be a glutton for punishment. I decided I should make a proper “worst” of 2017 list this year, so I subjected myself to The Snowman, a movie that, on paper, had absolutely no right to be bad. As a general rule, I’m a huge fan of the dark thriller/mystery genre, such as David Fincher’s excellent The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and his mystery masterpieces Gone Girl and Seven. The Snowman would like to be like these films. But just like the titular creation in the film, The Snowman is horribly constructed.
The plot is simple, a killer starts to strike at the first snow of winter, murdering women in Oslo. The killings also have connections to past killings. That’s basically the plot, and to go any further would “ruin” the “mystery”, even though you can figure out who’s behind everything quite easily if you just slightly pay attention.
Just to be kind, I’ll start with some sort-of nice things. The film doesn’t start off badly — the opening sequence is actually decently constructed and gives you hope that an interesting film will result (despite some bad visual effects). There are also another couple of scenes that share this quality — there is SOME competent film-making here, it’s just a damn shame that the film can’t keep that same level of competency throughout. Additionally, despite the structure of the film being pretty poor, editors Claire Simpson and Thelma Schoonmaker mercifully make the picture feel quick enough that it doesn’t drag horribly.
Additionally, we have some decent performances. Nothing to write home about, but Michael Fassbender (hilariously named “Harry Hole”), Rebecca Ferguson, and Charlotte Gainsbourg all turn in solid work, if nothing else. Personally, I thought Gainsbourg gave the finest performance. J.K. Simmons is wasted, but it is a solid cameo. Chloe Sevigny feels super miscast, as does the other character that doesn’t have a British accent in a British-accent-heavy film. A huge problem is the fact that none of the characters are written three-dimensionally. None of them are even written two-dimensionally. And the performances, while decent, are just mostly okay. With a cast this talented, this is incredibly sad to behold.
There is an excellent age-related casting choice for two characters, but that also basically gives away the secret identity of the killer. It’s too obvious. It’s both a casting triumph, and a failure, and when you watch the film, you’ll figure it out, too. Lastly, Dion Beebe captures a LOT of nice images. His cinematography is probably the best element of the picture, and I appreciated a lot he did with it, but it, too, is sometimes uninspired with his camera-movements and a number of shots. He’s the most competent of all the artists working on the picture. Good for him, he made it watchable for me because I like pretty imagery.
And now, for the TL;DR moment, the rest of the film is basically garbage. If you’d like to stop reading, go ahead and go to the end. But here are a number of issues I have with the movie:
First and foremost, Marco Beltrami’s musical score is used horribly. It is present in nearly every scene. I’m not sure the score itself could be classified as bad, it’s okay itself, but how they use the music to try and make the film more thriller-ish is just AWFUL. Downright terrible. Cut to a snowman closeup? CREEPY MUSIC. SCARY. No. It doesn’t work at all. Car following a character that is probably the killer? DUM DUM DUM, SCARY MUSIC. The use of Marco Beltrami’s score is so horribly done that it ruins the movie and makes it totally devoid of suspense. If someone ever makes a cut of the movie and removes the music entirely (except for a kind-of-but-not-really-important non-Beltrami track that is played twice on a radio), the movie would VASTLY improve, just because we don’t have this horrible use of music ruining every possible suspenseful scene. The WORST use of music this year.
The film’s writing, structure, and direction are all fourth-rate, at best. By that, I mean that I don’t understand how director Tomas Alfredson and writers Hossein Amini, Peter Straughan, and Søren Sveistrup could have concocted a picture this bad. ALL of the elements for a good movie are here but it plays like a lame Dragon Tattoo fan fiction or ripoff. The film has frequently inserted flashbacks that give you way too many hints to help you eliminate suspects and figure out the secrets of Rebecca Ferguson’s character. The audience figures everything out way too quickly. Sure, it happens that a plot can be obvious to an audience member or two, but this is just inexcusable. The editing, while mercifully quickly paced, is still not well done structure-wise. Both of these editors are excellent at what they do, so I question why a lot of the picture was put together the way it was done. Taking out the flashbacks (except maybe the beginning) would have been a start, but I’m not sure just how much that would have improved the movie. The film both feels obvious and incoherent, and that’s a sign that you should have probably re-edited the picture and re-shot a couple scenes.
Two last points: first, I will reiterate that there is some really BAD visual effects. Now, this isn’t a big part of the movie, but there are two scenes (a car going into a frozen lake and a head being blown off with a shotgun) where the visual effects are both noticeable and poor. It’s frankly quite obvious — visual effects should be as real as possible, even if used for only a small number of things, or they will take you out of the picture entirely. Here, it absolutely does. Neither of these moments felt real at all, and it was obvious that there was CGI at play. Second, poor Val Kilmer. The dubbing job they did was horribly done and obvious. It doesn’t feel organic and takes you out of the scenes he’s in entirely. You can just see where the words said on screen don’t line up with what Kilmer is saying and it’s just embarrassing how obvious it is. So poorly done. Leaving Kilmer’s voice in probably would have been better no matter how it sounded and it actually might have fit the character.
The Snowman is not a good film. It is not one of the worst films ever made but it is certainly one of the worst of the year and it had no right to be. I’m so disappointed in many ways because I was interested in the project but I do have myself to blame for watching it. That being said, it is definitely going on my year’s “worst of” list, and the only real reason to watch it is for you to find out what went wrong.
Er, I mean: