Based on the seventh book in the Harry Hole series by author Norwegian Jo Nesbø, The Snowman is a solid film that sadly gets cold towards its very end.
Often, when books are adapted to film they leave a lot to be desired. This film works because it can stand on its own without relying too much on the appeal of the books, which is a good thing: it must make sense as a coherent whole, whether you’ve interacted with Nesbø’s work or not. But while for a large chunk of the running time the film does just that, there are dots that just won’t connect.
At the heart of the film is a multi-layered detective Harry Hole (Michael Fassbender) who is brilliant in his detective work but is a troubled man with an alcohol addiction. Hole finds himself rather unwittingly investigating a series of murders that boast an unusual calling card: a snowman with coffee beans at every crime scene.
The case is brought to Hole’s attention by a new officer in his department, Katrine Bratt (Rebecca Ferguson), who claims she has been transferred from the missing persons department in Bergen. She seems star struck by Hole, to such an extent that she mentions immediately that she studied his cases at the academy.
Hole becomes suspicious of Katrine when he realises that she has in her possession cold case dockets.
And she is not authorised to have them. It later turns out that Katrine is actually on suspension by the Bergen police department after going against the rules in an attempt to crack the case of Norway’s first ever serial killer, dubbed The Snowman. A case that is rather close to home because she believes her father, maverick detective Gert Rafto (Val Kilmer), was murdered by The Snowman.
Hole routinely gets cryptic notes from The Snowman, which he consistently ignores until he realises what the notes mean. The same, we see in flashbacks, happened to Rafto before he ultimately had his head blown off with a shotgun by the maniac serial killer. The killer left the head of a grim faced snowman where Rafto’s head would have been.
It seems the snowman targets women who have children with different fathers. And he loves decapitating the women and placing their heads on the tops of snowmen.
The film gives us a number of suspects, one of them a creepy man (JK Simmons) who is in the forefront of Norway’s World Cup bid. He has an equally unappealing sidekick, Dr Idar Vetlesen (David Denick) who, for the longest time in the film, seems to be the murderer. It all comes to a head when bodies and a cellphone belonging to one of the missing women are recovered at Vetlesen’s residence.
There are aspects of the film that didn’t make sense. Such as the prologue that sees a woman that is regularly harassed by a cop take her own life.
The woman, who seems to have be having an illicit relationship with the cop, is beaten up every time her son gets a history quiz answer incorrect.
After suffering through watching the slaps his mother receives, the young man picks coffee beans on the floor when he picks his mother up.
He then runs out to go and build a snowman. This is the first we see of the grim snowman with the coffee bean smile. One would assume this is the serial killer’s backstory, but it could also so easily be Harry Hole’s. It’s a bit confusing.
The boy’s mother leaves him orphaned after she takes her own life by driving the car onto a frozen lake.
There’s also a scene where a man pretends to be cleaning Hole’s apartment but actually isn’t the regular cleaner. Why was that man in Hole’s apartment? Also, the relationship between Hole and Bratt seems awfully unclear.We can’t tell if they have a mentor-mentee relationship or whether something more romantic is happening.
Will you fall into their trap? pic.twitter.com/yZgoeV7CDO
Despite these moments, the storyline is coherent, mostly. I also loved the rugged intensity of Fassbender as Harry Hole.