The Snowman

Oslo is a terrible place to be if you are a homicide detective. That’s one of the first tidbits of information you receive when you first sit down to watch The Snowman. The Snowman is based on the bestselling novel of the same name by Jo NesbØ, first released to critical acclaim in 2007, and directed by Tomas Alferdson. The story centers around a serial killer who abducts and dismembers women leaving behind his calling card, an actual snowman. Early in the film it is theorized that all of the killings occur when it begins to snow, which one astute detective points out that they all occur in the winter so that doesn’t seem entirely unusual. I guess the fact that they live in Norway and don’t have tons of serial killers killing when it’s snowing is a good thing.

Harry Hole (I know the less mature readers are already giggling) played by Michael Fassbender, is a homicide detective who spends much of his time sleeping on the street and drinking himself into a stupor. This behavior is presumably why his girlfriend Rakel (Charlotte Gainbourg) is no longer with him, but he still maintains a close relationship with her son Oleg (Michael Yates).

His first real case in a while is to help locate a woman who has gone missing, with his new partner Katrine (Rebecca Ferguson). Katrine had asked to be assigned to homicide and has a fascination with a cold case, revolving around the gruesome murder of a successful young woman. In flashbacks to this murder we are introduced to another cop (Val Kilmer), who like Harry enjoys drinking a bit too much, who was asked by a friend to follow up on his missing wife. The search eventually leads to one of the most spectacular and jarring scenes where the missing woman is found dismembered on a snowy peak.

As the rest of the movie plot unfolds it becomes apparent that the markings in the cold case, and in the recent murder cases are eerily similar. Could the killer from the cold case and the person responsible for the killings now be the same? Katrine, believes this to be the case and is determined to solve it, her motives however and interest in the cold case is not immediately apparent.

Norway, the setting for The Snowman, is both beautiful and desolate at the same time. The film mixes big city action with isolated cabins in the woods, and makes for an incredible backdrop for the story to unfold. The setting alone provides plenty of tense moments throughout the film, whether it be following the footprints through the snow, or the stark contrast of bright red blood across the pure white snow. The snowmen themselves appear to take on a life of their own in this film as well. A sight that would bring joy to most children’s eyes, filled me with a sense of dread, understanding what this symbol meant. I certainly won’t feel the same way listening to “Frosty the Snowman”, this holiday season.

Michael Fassbender believably comes across as a grizzled cop, who’s clearly come on hard times. Rebecca Ferguson’s performance as the rookie detective who makes plenty of mistakes is reminiscent of other films that take a newcomer and matches them up with a veteran, who then learn from one another along the way. Their chemistry on screen didn’t seem forced and didn’t go in the direction that I believed it would, which is a refreshing change.

The story, which kept me entertained the entire time, does leave a lot of areas dangling. To say there are loose ends and unresolved plot twists would be an understatement. There are plots in the film, that are emphasized to a point where the viewer believes it to be of some significance only to die off (no pun intended). This left me wondering why some of the events in the film took place at all, almost to a point where it felt more like filler or distraction than anything else. Maybe the idea was to get the viewer focused on one portion of the plot, to throw them off the trail of what was really going on. Almost like that of a poor street magician who asks you to look at one hand and to ignore the other. It’s completely possible that these events had more significant meaning in the book, but their inclusion in the movie left me questioning their purpose once it was over.

The Snowman is an interesting and at times intense movie about a washed-up detective tracking down a serial killer. The Norwegian setting gives it a sense of beauty and isolation and makes for incredible scenes. It is a movie that you need to pay very close attention to or you might easily find yourself lost. I never felt that the movie dragged or went on too long, and I found myself guessing who the killer was until the very end. If you are a fan of the novel, you owe it to yourself to see the movie. If you are a fan of serial killer movies in general I would give this one a shot.

3.5 out of 5 stars