Saturday, April 7, 2018

Movie Reviews: The Snowman

The Snowman
directed by Tomas Alfredson
This is a detective crime thriller based in Norway. Unfortunately I found it way too derivative of many other films, primarily Insomnia and Seven. But if being derivative was a bad thing hardly any movies would be made or watched. Worse than being derivative I simply couldn't relate to or sympathize with any of the characters. I wonder if this movie would have been better if it was made with Norwegian actors speaking their native tongue and subtitled in English. The film definitely got across that it was set somewhere besides New York or London. But even though it was shot in Norway with beautiful sets and locations, I never believed that the primary actors were Norwegian.

And that's because by and large they weren't. Alfredson directed the hit Swedish horror thriller Let The Right One In. It felt like The Snowman was an attempt to capitalize on his previous success as well as that of other set in Scandinavia films such as The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. There's something that can be spooky about settings in the far north with people who are either gloomily introverted or dangerously drunk but this movie didn't reach those heights. This was a movie that was made for background watching. And no movie should be made for just having on while you do something else.

The convoluted plot tried to say something about men, women and responsibility but it missed the mark. If the writers and actors give the strong impression of not caring about the story then why should the viewer. Don't get me wrong. A film can have an insane, contradictory and downright confusing storyline and still be a masterpiece; witness The Big Sleep. That story was so up in the air and all over the place that when the director and screenwriters sent a message to the novelist asking him if a particular character in his book had committed a crime, the novelist had to respond that he didn't know either. So complex stories can be good. 

But you have to care about the characters. In The Big Sleep Bogart and Bacall are cool beyond words. You don't have to know who did what. All you know is that you want them to end up on the same side and together. The Snowman doesn't have a Bogart or Bacall. It was hard for me to care who wound up with whom or who committed the crimes. And I don't think the director cared that much either.

The unfortunately named Harry Hole (Michael Fassbender) is a skilled police detective in Oslo. He's a drunk and occasional insomniac. He's divorced from his wife, or is it estranged from his girlfriend? In any event his ex Rakel (Charlotte Gainsbourg) has decided not to tell their son Oleg that Harry really is Oleg's father. But then again Rakel has a history so maybe Harry isn't the father. In any event Rakel thinks because Harry isn't around often and is often drunk or withdrawn when he is, it's just as well that Oleg has an arm's distance relationship with Harry. Rakel has moved on and upwards. She's with a surgeon now, Matthias (Jonas Karlson), who takes care of her material needs more than Harry ever could. 

Harry is a workaholic and an alcoholic. He gets a strange letter taunting his detective abilities. Shortly afterwards Harry and his new partner, the intense and attractive Katrine Bratt (Rebecca Ferguson) are assigned to a missing person's case. And wouldn't you know it but there's a snowman at the crime scene that looks just like the drawn snowman in the letter Harry received. The game is afoot. But to paraphrase the President, this was a low energy film. The opening scene had creepy promise but the rest of the movie was something of a letdown.

Other actors/actresses of note include J.K. Simmons, Chloe Sevigny, James D'Arcy, Val Kilmer, and Toby Jones. Val Kilmer, by the way, was really bad in this movie. 
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