More psychopathic cinema than coherent drama, The Snowman is a jumble of disjointed puzzle pieces, of which some do not even belong to the central picture.
At the centre is Harry Hole (Michael Fassbender), a brilliant but alcoholic police inspector in Oslo, who is now excluded from major cases. He maintains friendly relations with his ex-lover, Rakel (Charlotte Gainsburg), whose son still looks upon him as a de facto parent, despite the presence of another man, Mathias (Jonas Karlsson), in his mother’s life.
Recently, a new colleague, Katrine (Rebecca Ferguson), has joined the bureau. With her, Harry becomes embroiled in a missing-persons scenario that soon reveals itself part of an old and deepening serial-murder plot. The killer, seeming to be close on the pair’s heels, sends notes of or reports beforehand on impending crimes, then leaves a childish snowman at the scene after every event, like something of a signature.
Meanwhile, in what appears little more than a red herring, Katrine sets off on her own trail to a creepy industrialist whom she erroneously believes to be behind the entire operation which, we later learn, had led to her own father’s death.
And all the time that women are vanishing — women who all have chequered personal lives, Rakel, included — Harry’s rented apartment is (for totally obscure reasons) being de-moulded.
Fassbender is excellent as the brooding, intense problem-solver, but this latest feature, based on a novel by Jo Nesbo, from Tomas Alfredson casts so wide a net trapping superfluous flotsam and jetsam in the hoard that any propensity for emotional engagement has all but slipped away.
Fortunately, there is some saving grace to be found in the sweeping Norwegian ice-scape of Dion Beebe’s wonderful cinematography. When Harry staggers across powder-white plains in pursuit of his nemesis, thighs steeped in snow, we might for a moment forget the story surrounding him is that convoluted, unnatural, pathological.