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‘The Snowman’ Reviews: What the Critics Are Saying

Jo Nesbø’s 2007 novel “The Snowman” may have been a critically acclaimed best-seller, but Tomas Alfredson’s film adaptation has not impressed critics.

Stars Michael Fassbender and Rebecca Ferguson could not save “The Snowman” from critical collapse. So far, reviews have been highly unfavorable for the film about detective Harry Hole (Fassbender) and recruit Katrine Bratt (Fergsuon) who investigate the return of a serial killer when a potential victim disappears during the first snow of winter. Critics decried the film’s scattered and incomprehensible plot line and bemoaned the lack of direction for its main cast members.

The Snowman” descends upon theaters Oct. 20. Here’s what the critics are saying:

Variety‘s Guy Lodge:

“Like a game of narrative Jenga, every excised element appears to have weakened the whodunnit’s overall structure, toward a climax that may well succeed in catching viewers off-guard, but in large part because of how little sense, both practically and emotionally, it makes in immediate retrospect. Also unexpectedly absent is the textured, shadow-marinated atmosphere that Alfredson cultivated so memorably in ‘Tinker Tailor’ and his smashing neo-vampire tale ‘Let the Right One In’: Heavily accessorized with needless digital detailing, Dion Beebe’s cinematography deals in shades of palest precipitation, but makes oddly little of Norway’s grandly desolate winter landscape.”

The Los Angeles Times’ Justin Chang:

“In ‘The Snowman,’ a wretched waste of time and talent from [Alfredson], two detectives track a serial killer who likes to hack up women’s bodies and then scatter the pieces all over: a head here, a limb there. The movie, perhaps subscribing to the fallacy of imitative form, adopts this dispersal method as a narrative strategy: a scene here, a flashback there, chunks of exposition strewn about like severed fingers. You could try piecing it all together, but really, what would be the point? Dead is dead.”

IndieWire’s Mike McCahill:

“These rogue Olafs – chilling on the page, laughable when made literal on screen – are just the tip of the iceberg. Plot and screen soon throng with self-evident red herrings: James d’Arcy as an uptight husband, David Dencik as an oddball therapist with fuchsia-pink toenails, an underplaying J.K. Simmons as a local grandee trying to bring something called the Winter Sports World Cup to Oslo. It is the standard drift of Scandinavian crime fiction that all murders should point up the food chain towards corrupt, abusive or otherwise wonky administrations, but one of the biggest letdowns of ‘The Snowman’ is how the promising Dencik-Simmons business winds up a narrative dead-end, somewhere between time-wasting feint and audience cheat.”

The Playlist’s Kevin Jagernauth:

“With some films, you can tell where one or two things went wrong — perhaps a decision in script, or a performance that’s off base — but ‘The Snowman’ is the rare movie where for every choice, there was a better way to go. There might be some grim pleasure in watching the film as an unintentional comedy, but it won’t take away the depression of seeing so much good talent and potential go completely to waste.”

The Telegraph’s Tim Robey: 

“Fassbender attempts a bleary, rheumy, sorrowful sort of turn, brought to his feet only by the sad old state of the world. But the role of Hole is so wonkily inserted into the overall plot, you regularly lose track of which lead he’s chasing up, and who’s a witness or a suspect, or what Toby Jones and Chloë Sevigny have to do with the price of tea in China. If ‘The Snowman’ merely aimed to max out on swooping chopper shots of frosty Norwegian harborfronts, and otherwise to be abominable, consider the job done.”

The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw:

“The story has its own pulse that keeps it moving along, despite a frankly eccentric flashback detour concerning another hard-drinking unconventional cop, oddly portrayed by Val Kilmer who appears not to have his mind entirely on the job, even as he is speaking and moving and hitting his marks on camera. When the story does get on track, you might yourself mildly bemused by its reliance on what appears to be a fictional piece of police detective kit, something called an EviSync, which holds police files and is also a GPS tracker and camera, but is bigger and more unwieldy than an iPad.”

RogerEbert.com’s Glenn Kenny:

“Well, not to give anything away, but the film is constructed to misdirect the viewer as much as possible. I think there’s a relatively simple reason for this, and it also has to do with why this ostensibly adult thriller has an ending that’s almost literally a gloss from a ‘Scooby-Doo’ episode: the actual plot, once laid out in a way that makes sense, is so patently packed with convenient coincidences that it’s practically simple-minded.”

The New York Daily News’ Joe Dziemianowicz:

“An able cast does what it can with the material. Director Tomas Alfredson (‘Let the Right One In’) surrounds them in a harsh, snow-bound environment. That’s something. But when you’re looking for a thriller that gives you the shivers, it’s really just cold comfort.”

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