Most audiences find themselves partial to a well-crafted “whodunnit” thriller – films that leave you guessing until the very last act, never allowing the mystery to falter. In the case of Tomas Alfredson’s (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) The Snowman, the only mystery is how a film with such talent involved has turned out so poorly. Funnily, it is as about as well constructed as a snowman, formed by the hands of a glove-sporting infant. A tiresome affair from start to finish.
Harry Hole (Michael Fassbender) is an alcoholic detective caught in the grip of misery. His world becomes even more tortured, however, when he begins to investigate the disappearance of a woman whose scarf is found outside her home, worn by a sinister looking snowman. The case thickens as a number of suspects are introduced, but who is responsible for the events that transpire is assuredly uncertain – that is, if you have never seen a film of this ilk before.
It is unfortunately strenuous to provide an example of something The Snowman actually achieves. The narrative is so muddled, inconsequential and wearisome. A film in which the balance hangs on the audience being able to route for the hero fails when no stakes or interest is established; there is no investment in anything that is going on, and all that is left is a whirlwind of terrible dialogue, accents and continuity errors. Fassbender is a scintillating star, and has even elevated projects that would otherwise have made little impact. Here, there is very little for him to do as he spends the entire run-time looking miserable and spouting depressing discourse. The script is abominable, and may actually invoke audiences to crack a grin of pure confusion – this is not the film to make jokes, but it is bewilderingly funny in its oblivious tendency to flounder its intentions.
There are some very talented people involved. Starring alongside Fassbender are J.K. Simmons and Charlotte Gainsbourg – and with Alfredson, the director of the critically adored vampire-tale Let The Right One In, firmly at the helm. It would be right to question what went wrong, but a possible answer may be found in its scriptwriter, Hossein Amini. Amini is responsible for the script of 2013 box-office blunder, 47 Ronin, and the 2012 fantasy adventure Snow White and the Huntsman. Both scripts are abysmally dissuading, yet he also wrote the script for Nicholas Winding Refn’s Drive. Drive does not boast an excellent script, but certainly not a bad one either; its dialogue is limited, but perfectly suited to the ostentatious tone of much of the film. The style established here would have been perfectly suited to this film also, but what we get instead is a collection of unmemorable characters with contemptible lines.
Pacing is its worst enemy, and what is remarkably surprising is that it was edited by Thelma Schoonmaker, renowned for being the recurring editor of Martin Scorsese’s consistently applauded work. It feels so messily put together that it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain a willingness to follow or care for the plot. Scenes of tension, which are ridiculously rare, are sabotaged by an incomprehensible montage of shots that will urge you to question how the characters are navigating the space they inhabit. Some shots are simply there to satisfy the eye, but many of them are flawed and make very little sense, particularly in the films disappointing climactic scene. There is little to merit The Snowman with, and it may be the worst film of 2017 so far – it will hopefully remain unbeaten. A comatose downer of a film.