With Child 44 I was expecting a slew of bad Russian accents and bleak subject matter. I wasn’t wrong.
The story behind Child 44 follows Russian Leo Demidov (Tom Hardy) who is an orphan turned World War II hero. Now the war is over he is part of a militant-police force in Russia whose main objective is the capture and execution of supposed traitors. Whilst carrying out his duties Leo uncovers a multitude of child murders. However, there cannot be murder in Stalin Russia as there ‘can be no murder in paradise‘. This forces Leo to investigate the matter on his own after being demoted and exiled along with the help of his wife, Raisa Demidov (Noomi Rapace).
The film effectively creates the feeling of living in communist Russia, filled to the brim with dread and despair. However, by bringing the audience into that world the effect on the film is that it feels long, boring and hopeless much like the lives of the characters within the story. What is interesting, is that it presents a glimpse into another world similar to our own but different in frustratingly simple ways. The fact murder cannot happen pushes the plot along and increases the stakes for Leo and Raisa as they investigate further into this child-murder conspiracy.
The performances are what makes this film bearable. Tom Hardy delivers a believable depiction of a morally conflicted Russian militant officer and plays his parts well when he is part of the problem with Soviet Russia and when he is against it. Talent such as Gary Oldman and Charles Dance were wasted in small-bit roles however both actors, ignoring their accents, do a decent job. Joel Kinnaman shows us he can play the role of a slimy bad guy and matches Tom Hardy’s acting performance.
This film gets through a lot of plot quickly but still manages to feel tiresome and tedious. Quite a few of the scenes end up in dead-ends and other scenes don’t have relevancy until towards the end. The use of shakey-cam is abused during each fighting scene and makes it incredibly difficult to make out exactly what is happening on-screen. The deeper message of what makes a hero and what makes a monster were only slightly hinted towards. If this theme was explored further we could have ended up with a great tale of the scars and damages leftover from times of war.
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