Movie Review: ‘The Snowman’ Is A Puzzle Filled With Holes

‘The Snowman’ is such a mixed bag that I’m having a hard time reconciling whether I enjoyed it or not. I’m keenly aware of the fact that I was interested in the characters and events as they were taking place, but after it finished I felt like huge chunks of the movie were missing. It was as if someone had stolen pieces out of a jigsaw puzzle and I was looking back at images that I couldn’t fully decipher. I enjoyed putting the puzzle together as I was going, but now I’m kind of pissed that I was left with a picture choked full of holes.

The basics of the plot involve a detective named Harry Hole (Michael Fassbender) and a missing persons officer named Katrine (Rebecca Ferguson). Together they are trying to figure out who is killing women and leaving snowmen at the crime scenes. Apart, Katrine is trying to figure out if a billionaire named Arve (J. K. Simmons) is responsible for something a little bit more personal. And that’s where the movie starts to run into narrative issues. The two plot threads seem like they go together, but the way they connect leaves a plethora of questions that are completely forgotten. Honestly, it’s as if the film completely forgets to provide answers to half of the questions it poses.

Now, an audience can intuit their own answers out of the bits and pieces of fleeting dialogue that we do get, but it’s deeply unsatisfying when you walk out the theater. There is a certain amount of imagination that an audience should certainly be left to. It is rewarding when a director leaves a few pieces out there for me to put together myself sometimes. Yet, there is a glaring difference between not spoon feeding an audience and just simply not providing the audience with half the answers to the questions that the script poses. That’s just a bit insulting and can make any enjoyment you felt watching the story feel like a lost memory.

The most annoying part of this all is that I kind of enjoyed it while it was going along. The characters felt short changed, but I kept feeling like I was going to get answers that never came. I also thought the script did a good job of keeping the killer elusive, but right under the audiences nose. However, as soon as he is discovered it’s a rush for the finish line and fleshing out how the killer was led to this particular outcome is hazy at best. There are just so many unanswered questions that I feel like they forgot to film large chunks of the movie.

Plot isn’t the only problem with the film. There is also some jarring editing in the opening sequence and a bizarre performance by Val Kilmer as a police detective from the past. Every time Kilmer talks it’s as if he’s drunk and he couldn’t match his lips in the dubbing. You can tell that editor Thelma Schoonmaker tries very hard to avoid filming any of his dialogue from the front. She mostly succeeds, but it’s hard not to notice when a character is always being shot from the back of the head every time they speak.

Not everything about this film is bad though. Despite a weak script, Fassbender and Ferguson are both good. Some of the camera work is unique and impressive. The scenery is absolutely gorgeous. Marco Beltrami’s score is at times sweeping, moody, and atmospheric. And the execution of several individual sequences work quite well. In fact, if the movie had just fleshed out a few of the loose ends then I could have forgiven a lot of the small issues. Sadly, the plethora of plot holes remains and the audience pays for the filmmakers inadequacies. Hopefully, Director Tomas Alfredson will get a better script and some faith from his studio the next time.

Nathan Ligon
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