A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Snowman is a crime thriller about a serial killer that's set in Oslo, Norway, and based on a novel by Jo Nesbø. It's very violent and gory, with lots of blood, dead bodies, severed limbs/heads, and more. Men fight with and hit women; in one scene, rape is suggested, and in another, a woman's naked breasts are exposed against her will. A woman deliberately drives into a frozen lake and lets herself sink, a killer uses a special gun that tightens a coil of wire around a fleshy limb, and a woman chops off a chicken's head (some blood). There's flirting and mild-to-strong sexual situations. Language is sporadic but includes uses of "f--k" and "s--t." The main character (Michael Fassbender) is said to drink too much (he wakes with a vodka bottle in his hand) and smokes cigarettes. A secondary character also drinks too much.
What's the story?
In THE SNOWMAN, a flashback shows a young boy enduring abuse from his "uncle," a married policeman engaged in an illicit affair with his mother. In the present day, in Oslo, Norway, detective Harry Hole (Michael Fassbender), who drinks and smokes too much, starts investigating a woman's disappearance. With the help of new recruit Katrine Bratt (Rebecca Ferguson), Hole discovers a pattern of missing women, all taken during snowfalls, all mothers, and all in unhappy marriages. And snowmen have been built at the scenes of all the crimes. Clues lead Hole and Bratt to powerful businessman Arve Støp (J.K. Simmons), who's trying to get a winter sports event to come to Oslo. But Hole's investigation is complicated by his relationship with his ex-girlfriend (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and being a father figure to her son (Michael Yates). And the killer seems to be watching his every move.
Is it any good?
Based on a novel by Jo Nesbø, this crime thriller has a promising director and a strong cast, but it's a total mess, with baffling flashbacks, excessive padding, and an overall poor execution. Filmmaker Tomas Alfredson previously gave the world Let the Right One In and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy -- both exceptional film adaptations of novels -- so there was no reason up-front to worry that The Snowman could be any less. And it starts well enough, using Oslo's snowy atmosphere to interesting effect.
But the characters and their almost-random behavior begin to undo things quickly. Flashbacks to a character played by Val Kilmer are astoundingly bad; Kilmer wears strange makeup, and his voice is clearly dubbed -- poorly -- by another actor. Digital visual effects depicting gory scenes look flat and unfinished. And there seems to be no end to silly coincidences and drawn-out scenes of a character simply getting from one place to another. Frankly, there's no real reason that the main characters should team up in the first place, other than the fact that he has no driver's license and she does. The mystery at the center isn't so bad, but the murkiness in getting to it make The Snowman not worth the effort.
Talk to your kids about ...
What's the appeal of movies about serial killers? What do they tend to have in common? How is this one similar or different?
The killer seems to think that "imperfect" families aren't loving ones. How do you feel about that opinion?
If you've read the book the movie was based on, how does the movie compare?
- In theaters: October 20, 2017
- On DVD or streaming: January 16, 2018
- Cast: Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, Charlotte Gainsbourg
- Director: Tomas Alfredson
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Genre: Thriller
- Topics: Book Characters
- Run time: 119 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: grisly images, violence, some language, sexuality and brief nudity
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.