The Snowman, with Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Val Kilmer. Directed by Tomas Alfredson.
A SCANDINAVIAN crime thriller, The Snowman is evocative of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but this time with a melancholic alcoholic detective as the lead, rather than a hard-nosed investigative journalist who never seemed to spend any time actually writing.
The filmmakers could have taken the route of hyper-realism by having Norwegian actors playing in the main roles, or the actors at least feigning an accent a la Vikings, but they chose not to.
Be they British or American, no one tried to disguise their accents except Val Kilmer, who wasn’t trying for a Scandinavian accent, but just a weird voice for his character, detective Rafto.
We only see Rafto in flashbacks, as the first cop who was on the trail of a serial killer called the Snowman, who partially dismembers his victims and leaves a snowman as his calling card.
Years later, talented but troubled detective Harry Hole (Michael Fassbender), is drawn into the mystery by a young police officer, Katrine Bratt (Rebecca Ferguson), who picked up one of his cold cases. She makes the link to a missing persons case which becomes a murder case.
Katrine is at first elusive, but later welcomes Harry’s participation because of his wealth of experience and knowledge. She is hiding something from him, but you get the feeling she used the case to draw him out of his malaise.
A drunk without a driver’s licence, Harry is like a dinosaur in an age of high-tech policing, where new gadgets are issued to record interviews and interface with the police database.
The film starts out with a lot of promise, establishing the bleak atmosphere of Oslo in winter and the intriguing interplay of characters
Harry’s personal relationship with his ex-girlfriend Rakel (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and her son Oleg also become integral to the story. Rakel has a new man in her life, suave doctor Mathias (Jonas Karlsson), but Harry remains a father figure to Oleg.
And just like real dads may do, he disappoints Oleg, forgetting his promise to attend a father/son camping trip when he travels to another city to look into Rafto’s unexplained suicide nine years earlier.
The serial killer case seems somehow related to predatory mogul Arve Stop (JK Simmons), at a critical time in Norway’s bid to get the Soccer World Cup, in which Stop is heavily involved.
The film starts out with a lot of promise, establishing the bleak atmosphere of Oslo in winter and the intriguing interplay of characters. But at some point it meanders and then the ending feels rushed and unsatisfactory.
Still, it benefits from a great cast and good source material.