Film Lists

The Snowman: Five great crime films based on novels

The turn of the page. The rising levels of suspense. There is nothing like a crime story to keep one glued to a book.

With The Snowman coming to our movie screens, based on the phenomenally popular Harry Hole novels by Jo Nesbo, and with Michael Fassbender taking the lead role, Set The Tape looks back at five of the best movies that have taken inspiration from the best of the printed page that has dealt with murder, suspense and crime. Beginning with…

The Silence of the Lambs

In some ways, one of two crime novel adaptations that all others aspire to, becoming a massive box office hit and winning the five main Academy Awards, The Silence of the Lambs stands as a great thriller, as well as a masterful combination of suspense and horror.  Based on Thomas Harris’s novel, part of a series that has also included Red Dragon, itself adapted into Michael Mann’s superb Manhunter, as well as the Brett Ratner film of the same name, The Silence of the Lambs has entered the pop cultural lexicon, with imagery and dialogue that has been spoofed and quoted affectionately.

Jodie Foster’s portrayal of Clarice Starling is so engaging that it’s no surprise she won the Academy Award for Best Actress. Along with Anthony Hopkins’s iconic portrayal of Hannibal Lecter, the film has lost none of its power. It is brilliantly helped by Ted Tally’s screenplay and the late Jonathan Demme’s masterful direction, putting you into the characters head space with his superb use of point of view shots where many of the characters deliver their dialogue direct to camera.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Adapted twice, once in its native Sweden and then in the inevitable American remake, remarkably both versions are fantastic, but perhaps somewhat controversially, I’m picking the incredibly cinematic David Fincher version. Whilst the original does have an amazing Noomi Rapace performance at the heart of it, Fincher brings his usual brand of grand visual style to his adaptation, as well as a screenplay courtesy of Steven Zaillian.

Whilst other critics will probably declare the Swedish version as the better film, the novel suits itself to an American adaptation; although amazingly Fincher keeps the film set in Sweden and has his cast play with subtle Swedish accents. It would be easy to regard the film being made with such decisions as redundant when there is already a Swedish version out there, but when a film is as good as this one is, how can you fault it? With one of the greatest credit sequences ever put to film (imagine David Lynch directing James Bond credits) as well as superb central performances from Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig, Fincher and Zallian bring Stieg Larsson’s phenomenally popular book to the screen in a stunning manner.

Amazingly, the film doesn’t pull its punches when it come to the novel’s more brutal moments, and makes for a compulsive watch. Sadly the middling box office has meant that Fincher-directed versions of the book’s sequels are very unlikely to happen.

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