Based (very loosely) on Tom Rob Smith’s historical crime novel set in early 1950s Stalinist Soviet Union, Child 44 has Hardy playing a high ranking official who refuses to denouce his wife (Rapace) and is sent off to the boonies, where they both decide to rip the “no murder in paradise” mask right off the face of terror-based Soviet ideology by clearing up a series of grizzly child murders. Gary Oldman (and a late appearance by Charles Dance) turn up to represent various degrees of decency and corruption, predictably enhanced by a variety of grey-toned lenses and a thundering score through which the odd red star makes a mockery of hope.
It doesn’t take rocket science to make the connection between totalitarianism and moral perversion. Director Espinosa jumbles even this with cherry-picked aspects of Smith’s narrative (the Nazis were behind it all by turning interned Soviet soldiers into monsters...) without following through on the wider implications: corrupt systems will eventually turn on themselves. The film’s culmination in one egregiously choreographed scene involving copious quantities of mud only serves to underscore the confusion. All we can hope for is a landslide to bury the lot of them.
Child 44 | Directed by Daniel Espinosa (Czech Republic, Romania, UK, USA 2015) with Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, Noomi Rapace. Starts June 4
Originally published in issue #139, June 2015.