Friday, 20 October 2017

The Snowman; when you're in a Hole, stop digging

The Snowman is a movie where the trailer doesn’t show you what to expect; not because the movie is fully of expertly managed suspense and misdirection, but because the trailer is full of stuff that didn’t make it into the final cut. I find it hard to fight the idea that the trailer is a hint that with a better cut and more running time, they could have somehow made a movie which worked.

I call that an idea, but maybe it’s just a fond hope. Maybe I just want to think that a uniformly solid [1] cast and a pretty good director had it in them to make a decent movie instead of the steaming pile of nonsense that I watched this week. Maybe nothing was going to save it. Certainly Michael Fassbender wasn’t going to. Resolutely playing Harry Hole as if he’d been told his first name was actually Arse, his only possible excuse is that he started shooting for The Snowman four days after he came off Assassin’s Creed and he didn’t realise that he was supposed to be interacting with real humans now.

There’s something meticulously tone deaf about the whole thing. Even though the Norwegian film board hurled money at the production and there’s another wonderful landscape shot every three minutes, anything which might sound Norwegian has been meticulously sanded off the script; the newspapers are in English, the advertising is in English, and Harry Hole’s name is pronounced just like it looks, instead of the way it would sound, which is more or less Hoolay. Because the name sounds ridiculous in English, and Hole’s the kind of guy no-one calls by his first name, you’re reminded every couple of minutes that this is a movie made by people who didn’t realise that they were being idiots.

It’s also a movie which hired Toby Jones and then gave him nothing to do. He’s on screen for less time than it takes to play a Beatles song, and contributes nothing to the plot, but because it’s Toby Jones, I spent the back half of the movie waiting for him to come back to work. Nope. Maybe he’s part of all the stuff which was in the trailer and wound up not being in the movie. Him and Adrian Dunbar and JK Simmons and so on and so forth.

And then there’s the plot. The Redbreast kind of knocked me back a bit on reading the rest of the Harry Hole books, so I don’t know if the book makes more sense than the film adaptation, but the only way it could make less would be if Jo Nesbo ordered it to be printed with every second page missing. Harry is the great genius detective, but he spends most of the movie detecting his floor. He’s supposed to be a tortured genius who drinks too much and neglects his friends and family but gets away with it because he’s just so all fired good at his job. But we never see him detect a single goddam thing. Weirdly, the whole "everyone forgiving him because he’s so damn cool” thing does seem almost plausible simply because it’s Michael Fassbender, and even sleepwalking Michael Fassbender is the nearest thing we’ve got to a new edition of 1990s Daniel Day Lewis. Then there’s the murderer, who doesn’t make any sense at all, at any level, starting with the bit about him turning out to be virtually the only character in the movie who hasn’t been teased as a possible killer, and progressing cheerily through the way that his murders don’t make sense even as crazy-person murders. And there’s Harry’s female sidekick, who gets herself killed doing something so amazingly stupid that she deserved it without there being any way in which the murder could logically have happened. Man, it’s a mess. Like I say, maybe there’s a whole bunch of out-takes somewhere which make sense out of it; more likely there’s a whole bunch of outtakes which even if you strung them together at random would make more sense.

The good-ish news is that no-one is likely to be taking another swing at this any time soon. But it’s sad to see that much talent getting such a poor return on their effort.

[1] OK, maybe not Val Kilmer, who now looks like Marv from Sin City wearing a Val Kilmer mask he found in a gas station and put on in the dark

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