Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Tomas Alfredson|
|Based on||The Snowman|
by Jo Nesbø
|Music by||Marco Beltrami|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Box office||$43.1 million|
The Snowman is a 2017 psychological thriller film directed by Tomas Alfredson and written by Hossein Amini, Peter Straughan and Søren Sveistrup, and based on the novel of the same name by Jo Nesbø. An international co-production between the United Kingdom, United States, Sweden, and Japan; the film stars Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Val Kilmer, and J. K. Simmons, and follows a detective who tries to find a serial killer who uses snowmen as his calling card.
Principal photography began on 18 January 2016 in Norway, before moving to London and Sweden. The film premiered on 7 October 2017 at the Haifa International Film Festival, and was theatrically released by Universal Pictures, on 13 October 2017 in the United Kingdom and 20 October 2017 in the United States. The film was box office bomb, grossing $43 million worldwide against a $35 million budget, and it was widely panned by critics, who called it "clichéd and uninvolving." Alfredson later attributed many of the film's problems to the film's rushed production schedule.
At a remote cabin amidst heavy snowfall, a woman named Sarah confronts a brutal man named Jonas saying she is going to tell his wife about their illegitimate son. The son overhears this when he returns from building a snowman. Jonas leaves angrily in his car. Sarah and her son pursue him, but lose him in the snow. She lets go of the steering wheel, causing the car to drive off the road onto a frozen lake. The boy manages to escape from the sinking car, but his mother stays inside, in an apparent suicide.
Harry Hole is a brilliant but troubled inspector with the Norwegian Police Service's Oslo district, struggling with the aftermath of his break-up with his girlfriend Rakel and her new relationship with Mathias, a renowned surgeon. Harry was very close to her son Oleg, who is unaware that Harry is his biological father. Oleg mentions, on an outing with Harry, that his mother (Rakel) refused to let him search for his father. Harry receives a mysterious letter signed with the drawing of a snowman, and is paired with a brilliant new recruit, Katrine Bratt. The two are assigned to a missing persons case of Birte Becker, who vanished from her house after being followed home by a red Volvo.
The police receive a report of another missing woman named Sylvia Otterson. When Harry and Katrine travel to her farmhouse to investigate, they find her alive and well. They brush the report off as a prank call and leave, but shortly thereafter a figure wearing a black ski mask stalks and kills Sylvia outside her house, using an engine powered wire fastening harness to decapitate her. Harry receives another call about Otterson, and returning to the farmhouse comes face-to-face with her identical twin sister Ane. They search the property and find Sylvia's beheaded corpse inside her barn, and her head atop a snowman inside an empty storage tank.
Connecting the letter with the presence of a snowman at the crime scene of the murder with the snowman at the scene of the first woman's (Birte) disappearance, Harry's research leads him to a previous case in Bergen, involving a similar set of circumstances. He travels to meet the case's investigating officer Gert Rafto, but upon arrival learns that Rafto died eight years prior through what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound, and that the case went cold after his apparent suicide. Inside Rafto's old cabin, he finds a jacket and a photograph that lead him to realize that Katrine is Rafto's daughter, and is likely out to find her father's real killer.
Katrine believes that Arve Støp, a business tycoon implicated in the earlier case, is behind her father's death. Støp is involved in a high-class prostitution ring overseen by Idar Vetlesen, a doctor working at a clinic all the current victims had visited. Birte's cell phone begins transmitting again, and the signal is traced to Vetlesen's house. When the police raid it, they find Vetlesen dead of a shotgun blast to the head, along with the remains of Birte and another victim named Hegen Dahl.
Katrine begins to seduce Støp at a fundraiser event, and he asks her to meet him in his hotel room. She sets a trap for him inside, but she is attacked and drugged by a masked figure who severs her right finger and uses it to unlock the fingerprint reader on her work tablet, wiping all the data from it. The next morning, Harry sees the impression of a snowman atop a snow-covered car, and inside finds Katrine dead in the driver's seat.
Rakel tells Harry that Oleg has run away after Harry missed a school camping trip which he was supposed to have gone to. Oleg stays at a friend's house, and when Rakel arrives to tell Harry the two kiss and almost have sex. Mathias calls to tell Rakel that he is picking up Oleg to take him home. Upon returning home, Mathias drugs and ties up Rakel, then does the same to Oleg, taking both of them to a cottage in Telemark. Harry locates the cottage, where he finds that Mathias has Rakel and Oleg hostage with the wire fastening harness tool to Rakel's throat. Mathias is revealed as the boy at the start of the film, who hated his mother for committing suicide and, thus, abandoning him. Harry attacks Mathias and manages to get the tool off of Rakel's neck, losing a finger in the process. Mathias escapes and Harry gives pursuit, chasing him onto the ice. Mathias manages to shoot Harry, but the ice beneath Mathias' feet suddenly cracks and breaks apart, dropping him into the water below and dragging him under the current to his death.
After having his injuries treated, Harry returns to the police precinct, and volunteers for a new homicide case.
- Michael Fassbender as Detective Harry Hole
- Rebecca Ferguson as Katrine Bratt
- Charlotte Gainsbourg as Rakel Fauke
- Val Kilmer as Gert Rafto
- J. K. Simmons as Arve Støp
- Toby Jones as Investigator Svenson
- David Dencik as Idar Vetlesen
- Ronan Vibert as DCI Gunnar Hagen
- Chloë Sevigny as Sylvia Ottersen/Ane Pedersen
- James D'Arcy as Filip Becker
- Genevieve O'Reilly as Birte Becker
- Peter Dalle as Jonas Lund-Helgesen
- Jamie Clayton as Edda
- Jakob Oftebro as Magnus Skarre
- Jonas Karlsson as Mathias Lund-Helgesen
- Silvia Busuioc as Beautiful Girl
- Michael Yates as Oleg Fauke-Gosev
- Alec Newman as Mould Man
- Jeté Laurence as Josephine Becker
- Sofia Helin as Sarah Kvensland
- Jo Nesbø (the writer of the novel on which the film is based) was supposed to have a small cameo, but his scenes were cut.
According to Variety, the initial hope with the film to was to create a series in the vein of the Alex Cross film adaptations. Screen Rant has suggested that the film was inspired by the success of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
For a while, Martin Scorsese was attached to direct, although he dropped out in 2013. The next year, Tomas Alfredson was hired to direct. Prior to Alfredson, the studio had considered Morten Tyldum and Baltasar Kormákur, although they declined. By September 2015, Michael Fassbender was in talks to star in the film, and Rebecca Ferguson and Charlotte Gainsbourg were in talks to join the cast by that October and December, respectively.
Principal photography on the film commenced on 18 January 2016 in Oslo, Norway. Fassbender was spotted on set on 21 January, in the Barcode area of Oslo, shooting a scene on the tram. A large scene depicting a party, which required over 300 extras, was shot in Oslo City Hall on 5 February. Production moved to Rjukan on 9 February, and to Bergen on 23 February. Filming in Bergen including scenes on the mountain of Ulriken, Bryggen and the Skansen firestation. Production moved back to Oslo for the remainder of filming, in mid-March. This included scenes at Restaurant Schrøder, where Harry Hole is a regular in the novel series. Filming also took place in Drammen, and on the Atlantic Ocean Road, and ended on 1 April 2016.
Reshoots and additional filming took place in Norway during the spring of 2017.
In response to the negative critical reviews, Alfredson blamed the heavily-condensed pre-production and rushed filming schedule, in which 10% to 15% of the screenplay remained unfilmed. This led to narrative problems when editing commenced:
Our shoot time in Norway was way too short, we didn't get the whole story with us and when we started cutting we discovered that a lot was missing. It's like when you're making a big jigsaw puzzle and a few pieces are missing so you don't see the whole picture.
Alfredson also stated that he had a lack of time to prepare the film properly:
Actor Val Kilmer suffered from an enlarged tongue during filming due to recent treatment for throat cancer. As such, many of his scenes were filmed without the actor visibly speaking as so to allow easier dubbing during post-production. To that end, all of Kilmer's dialogue is dubbed.
Universal Pictures released a poster on 18 July 2017, and the first trailer for the film premiered the following day. An international trailer was released on 5 September. The original poster, featuring a doodle of a snowman and a note to the police, became a popular Internet meme shortly after its release.
The Snowman grossed $6.7 million in the United States and Canada, and $36.4 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $43.1 million, against a production budget of $35 million.
In the United States and Canada, The Snowman was released alongside Boo 2! A Madea Halloween, Geostorm, and Only The Brave, and was expected to gross around $10 million from 1,813 theaters in its opening weekend. However, after making $1.3 million on its first day (including $270,000 from Thursday night previews), weekend predictions were lowered to $4 million. The film went on to debut to $3.2 million, finishing 8th at the box office. In its second weekend, the film dropped 64% to $1.2 million, falling to 17th place at the box office. The film was then pulled from 1,291 theaters in its third week, and fell 86% to $167,685, finishing 33rd.
The Snowman was panned by critics, who derided what they saw as the film's scattered and incomprehensible plot line, as well as a lack of direction for its main cast members. On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 7%, based on 188 reviews, with an average rating of 3.04/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "A mystery that feels as mashed together and perishable as its title, The Snowman squanders its bestselling source material as well as a top-notch ensemble cast." On Metacritic the film has a weighted average score of 23 out of 100, based on 38 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "D" on an A+ to F scale.
Justin Chang of the Los Angeles Times gave the film a negative review, writing "There's probably a good movie or several buried in the frigid wilds of Nesbø's fiction, and with more time and cultural nuance and fewer cooks in the kitchen, it might well be realized. Watching this bungled slopsicle of a movie, it's hard not to conclude that somebody let the wrong one in." Variety's Guy Lodge also called the film a disappointment, saying: "If The Snowman were merely a chilly, streamlined precis of a knottier page-turner, it could stolidly pass muster. The sad surprise here, considering how deftly Alfredson and Straughan previously navigated the far more serpentine plot machinations of a John le Carré classic [Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy], is the snowballing incoherence of proceedings." Manohla Dargis of The New York Times called the film a "leaden, clotted, exasperating mess".
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