Michael Fassbender stars as Harry Hole, jaded alcoholic detective, in this adaptation of the bestselling book of the same name by Jo Nesbø. Lee reviews.
While film is an important and popular format in the audio-visual medium, a number of adaptations aren’t exactly cut out for it; one form, despite its popularity amongst the masses, happens to be the mid-length airport shelf mystery novel, the genre which The Snowman happens to fall into.
It’s not that the pieces don’t mostly fit the jigsaw – they do, even if some are a little warped and tattered and you have to wedge them together with brute force. A slow, lingering mental thriller where the plot threads dangle over your head while you and your surrogate detective bash clues together to get to a coherent result; exactly the kind of work that might struggle to fit the structure required of a two hour pulse-racing thrill-ride. Conversely, it does manage to work – in parts – but overall you do have to wonder why your jigsaw lies on the floor like a partially raised parallelogram.
Now television; there I can see your resolution. Multiple hours allows you to flesh out your backstories and your time jumps, spend more time raising suspicions of your suspects, delve a little deeper into the political struggles that paint a backdrop for the crimes being committed, etc. Pour half the money spent on getting cool panoramic scenery shots into a few dozen more sets and you’ve got yourself a working ecosystem with which to tell a well-paced and involving murder-mystery.
Regardless, there’s quite a lot to like in The Snowman – a demure cast of characters that very rarely overreact or fit neatly into straight-up clichés, a setting that gives and gives in rich imagery and political intrigue, a killer whose method of murder is both simple and terrifying; there’s plenty to recommend here. But each pro comes with an equivalent con as the finer efforts all fall flat in a story that has neither the time nor the clarity to make any real statement with their inclusion, and so each recommendation must come with a tempering of expectations to that effect.
A rainy-day recommendation, and a well-made one at that, but little more. Hold out for a TV adaptation; or read the book, if you’re so inclined.