In Russia during the Stalin regime, a disgraced military police
officer investigates a series of gruesome child murders.
Child 44 (2015)
Directed by Daniel Espinosa
Written by Richard Price
Starring Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, Noomi Rapace,
Joel Kinnaman, Vincent Cassel, Paddy Considine,
Fares Fares, Jason Clarke, Charles Dance
Based on the novel by Tom Rob Smith
Somehow, despite its incredible cast, Child 44 fell off the radar pretty quickly in 2015. Critics called it slow, confusing, and a waste of great actors' talents. While the film does drag a bit, it's hardly a slog. The actors' investment in their respective characters keeps the film moving through various storylines that all intersect quite comfortably. I never once found this film confusing, and I think it was a great effort on every actor's part, particularly Tom Hardy. With every chameleon-like performance, Hardy shows how he is one of the most dedicated actors working today, and his turn as Soviet officer Leo Demidov is no exception.
Russia during the Stalin regime was a terrifying place. The secret police controlled the streets and suspicion meant certain death. This film beautifully utilizes its bleak setting, showing the darkest side of the Soviet Union as Demidov investigates a string of child murders happening along the railways of Russia. After he refuses to renounce his wife, who is suspected of being a spy, he and his wife are exiled to Volsk, where the investigation really picks up steam. There are a lot of different stories that happen to Demidov over the course of the film, but they all come back to the serial murders. I must also point out my appreciation for attempted Russian accents in the film. I was really expecting an Enemy at the Gates situation, where everyone just spoke with an English accent. The actors' Russian accents are actually not bad, and rarely distract from their performances.
Child 44 does leave a few loose ends, and the ending is a little bit too "happily ever after" for my taste, but overall, I enjoyed the film. It tells an intriguing story during a time in history that we rarely get to see in film. While America prospered after World War II, Russia maintained a dictatorship regime that kept its people under Stalin's thumb. While the film is fictional, the hardships it portrays were not. It's definitely worth a watch if only to catch a glimpse of that life.