Huddersfield Daily Examiner - - FRONT PAGE -

HERE’S lit­tle chance of au­di­ences con­fus­ing Swedish direc­tor To­mas Al­fred­son’s The Snow­man with the charm­ing an­i­mated film that has been a sta­ple of fes­tive TV sched­ules for more than 30 years.

One is a per­fect dis­til­la­tion of child­hood won­der torn lov­ingly from the pages of Ray­mond Briggs’ pic­ture book, the other is a ham-fisted de­tec­tive yarn with ice rather than blood in its veins, adapted from a grip­ping novel by Jo Nesbo.

Based on the sev­enth in­stal­ment in a best-sell­ing se­ries fea­tur­ing Nor­we­gian de­tec­tive Harry Hole, this clum­sily con­structed Snow­man can­not muster a sin­gle flurry of ten­sion over the course of two glacial hours that feel closer to three.

It’s hard to be­lieve that the gifted film­maker, who had us bit­ing nails down to the cu­ti­cle with the vam­pire com­ing-of-age story Let The Right One In and Os­car-nom­i­nated Cold War thriller Tinker Tai­lor Sol­dier Spy, could be re­spon­si­ble for this pile of snow­balls.

A mild case of frost­bite might be favourable to shiv­er­ing with bore­dom through Al­fred­son’s anaemic hunt for a di­a­bol­i­cal serial killer, who strikes dur­ing the first win­ter snow­fall.

Dra­matic mo­men­tum is frozen solid from the chilly open­ing frames and Michael Fass­ben­der’s life­less lead per­for­mance as a griz­zled de­tec­tive bat­tling al­co­holism fails to thaw our sym­pa­thy.

Harry (Fass­ben­der) is at the mercy of his ad­dic­tion – a dis­ease, which has driven away his girl­friend Rakel (Char­lotte Gains­bourg) and her teenage son Oleg (Michael Yates). It’s lit­tle won­der Rakel has sought refuge in the arms of a strait-laced and re­li­able doc­tor (Jonas Karls­son).

Harry’s toxic re­la­tion­ship with the bot­tle also neg­a­tively im­pacts his abil­ity to func­tion at work and he craves a com­plex case to tem­po­rar­ily quell his demons.

“I apologise for Oslo’s low mur­der rate,” dryly re­torts his su­pe­rior, DCI Gun­nar Ha­gen (Ro­nan Vib­ert).

Stum­bling into work in a bleary-eyed daze, Harry meets de­tec­tive Ka­trine Bratt (Re­becca Fer­gu­son), a re­cent trans­fer from Ber­gen. They are called to the home of Birte Becker (Sofia Helin), who has van­ished shortly after an ar­gu­ment with her hus­band (James D’Arcy).

A creepy snow­man stands fac­ing the Becker house, and a trawl through po­lice archives ex­humes a se­ries of un­solved cases in­volv­ing moth­ers, who dis­ap­peared or were mur­dered at the same time of year.

Flash­backs to an ear­lier in­ves­ti­ga­tion in­volv­ing de­tec­tive Gert Rafto (Val Kilmer), phi­lan­thropist Arve Stop (J K Sim­mons) and plas­tic sur­geon Idar Vetle­sen (David Den­cik) be­gin to join the blood­soaked dots.

How­ever, the killer is one step ahead of Harry and Ka­trine.

The Snow­man is a poor dis­til­la­tion of Nesbo’s page-turner, starved of sus­pense or any emo­tional con­nec­tion to the char­ac­ters. Fre­netic edit­ing ren­ders one piv­otal fight se­quence in­com­pre­hen­si­ble and with each clearly tele­graphed twist, Al­fred­son is in­ca­pable of shift­ing out of first gear.

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