The Snowman (2 stars)

The Snowman

Surprisingly inept chiller from Tomas Alfredson, based on Jo Nesbø's bestseller

Swedish director Tomas Alfredson would seem the ideal candidate to take the helm on an adaptation of Jo Nesbø's bestselling chiller. His elegant vampire movie Let the Right One In and his sublime take on Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy proved he's a director of great subtlety. So what on earth happened here? The Snowman is a poorly handled potboiler that telegraphs its scares, alerts even the most unobservant viewer to the identity of the killer and fritters away a cast headed by Michael Fassbender and Rebecca Ferguson.

Fassbender plays Harry Hole, an alcoholic detective in the Oslo police force who, when we join him, has been on a prolonged bender. He just about sobers up enough to investigate a series of missing women, with the help of Ferguson's rookie. When bodies start turning up – usually in pieces, with the killer's calling card of a crudely made snowman found nearby – the trail begins heating up. Flashbacks sporadically take us back to Bergen, nine years earlier, where another detective (Val Kilmer) is making similar enquiries.

Also mixed into the plot is an Oslo bid for the Winter Games, run by a sexually rapacious businessman (JK Simmons), and Harry's relationship with his ex-girlfriend (Charlotte Gainsbourg), who is now dating a successful cosmetic surgeon and has a son by a third man who the boy has not met. But these puzzle pieces fail to fall into place in a leaden script that pushes home its central theme – children seeking parental identities – with all the subtlety of a jackhammer.

It doesn't help that the key motif – the snowman – looks ridiculous on screen, rather than terrifying. Or that Marco Beltrami's bombastic score is overused and that even usually reliable actors (like Chloë Sevigny, in a small role) seem off-key. As for a static Kilmer, his appearance is just an embarrassment. It's a huge, huge disappointment.

General release from Fri 13 Oct.

The Snowman

  • 2 stars
  • 2017
  • UK
  • 1h 59min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Tomas Alfredson
  • Written by: Hossein Amini, Peter Straughan
  • Cast: Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, Chloë Sevigny

Detective Harry Hole investigates the disappearance of a woman whose scarf is found decorating an ominous-looking snowman. He sets out to connect decades-old cases to the new one in the hope of putting an end to them before the next snowfall.