“The Snowman”

After seeing that Tomas Alfredson’s murder mystery The Snowman has a 9% approval on Rotten Tomatoes and Alfredson admitted to not shooting the entire script, I had to see the film to find out how terrible it is. The Snowman isn’t terrible, it’s just bad.

The Sherlock Holmes-like detective Harry Hole (Michael Fassbender) receives a letter at his desk taunting him before being assigned to a homicide case. Another woman is murdered and a snowman is found in her house. With the body count and snowmen rising, can Harry solve a 10-year-old case? He’ll have better chances if he gets a driver’s license and stops drinking!

The biggest strengths in The Snowman are its occasionally haunting cinematography and Fassbender’s committed performance. Part from that, this is a trashy and often confusing thriller. Regardless, I was entertained, so I’ll give The Snowman credit there.

Fassbender’s Harry is a convincing portrayal of both obsessive and addictive personalities. We see Harry’s relationship with Rakel (Charlotte Gainsbourg) failed due to his obsession with work and his alcoholism. It’s a sad subplot, but it would be more emotionally investing if we got Harry’s backstory. On top of that, how does he have a badge if he doesn’t drive and always passes out in public places?

If Alfredson and his three-person team of screenwriters weren’t so focused on a subplot involving a sleazy engineer (JK Simmons sporting a terrible accent) or flashbacks with a washed-up detective (Val Kilmer in his first theatrical film since MacGruber), we might care more about Harry. Harry Hole is an iconic character in Norwegian literature, so why focus on dull supporting characters?

I figured The Snowman would have a sexist character since it’s about a killer with severe mommy issues killing single mothers. That’s fine, but not when the entire script is sexist! Why is every female character depicted as pathetic, helpless, unfaithful, a sex object, and only focused on men? The writers clearly didn’t take George RR Martin’s advice on treating female characters as people.

The trailer for The Snowman had me hopeful that it would be another Prisoners or The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. This was a harsh lesson for me to not have high expectations.

Grade: C-

 

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“Wind River”

By the time Taylor Sheridan’s (writer of Sicario and Hell or High Water) Wind River concluded with an informative caption, I was devastated. Sheridan writes and directs a brutal modern-day Western about a subject that needs our attention.

US Fish and Wildlife Service agent Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner) finds a murdered teenager in the Wind River Indian Reservation. Rookie FBI agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) is assigned the case and is unprepared for the harsh weather and violence that await. With Lambert’s help, Banner hunts for the killer. Lambert, however, has his own reasons for taking the case.

Wind River has taken the title of 2017’s feel-bad movie (who would have thought Detroit would be dethroned?). I haven’t seen any other film this year that’s either as provocative or visceral as Wind River. Sheridan is on a role with the cynical and grim Westerns.

While Sicario was nihilistic about the war on drugs and Hell or High Water about banks, Wind River isn’t nihilistic. It’s brutally honest about missing Native American women and how there are no statistics. No one knows how many are missing; this is a fact that floored me.

MILD SPOILERS AHEAD!!!

Lambert takes the case as a form of catharsis. His daughter has been missing (and possibly dead) for years and he aids Banner to help exercise his aggression. Lambert doesn’t hold back his rage during the climax, resulting in some shockingly violent moments. Renner delivers a taut performance as Lambert; he’s a likable-yet-troubled cowboy overwhelmed by pain. With one beautifully written monologue about grief, Renner is a guaranteed Best Actor nominee.

Olsen plays Banner with a certain level of innocence. She isn’t afraid to draw her weapon or take charge of the situation, but it’s obvious that this is her first homicide case. This is emphasized in the final act when she breaks down over the case’s grisly outcome.

Wind River is Sheridan’s sophomore directorial effort. While his aesthetics are slightly uneven (using voiceover narration in the prologue and title cards in the epilogue), he is one to keep an eye out for. His poetic screenwriting, dark commentary, and use of violence make him a standout auteur.

Grade: A