Directed by: Daniel Espinosa
In director Daniel Espinosa’s “Child 44”, Tom Hardy stars as Leo, who was as a child a survivor of Stalin’s enforced starvation of the Ukraine and now as an adult a highly regarded member of the MGB. When Leo’s godson is murdered and found naked and mutilated by the railroad tracks, Leo is told by his commanding officer (Cassel) that not only must he deliver the news to the boys father (and Leo’s best friend), but he must also insist on the truth of the official report, which says the boy was hit by the train.
Although he knows that the report is not true, Soviet Russia in the early 1950s is not the place or time to question one’s government. He delivers the report to his friend, and warns them to keep their mouths shut about their disagreements. Then things become a bit hairier when Leo is instructed to investigate his wife (Rapace) as a spy. Although there is no evidence to prove her treachery, she is seen as guilty and when Leo refuses to denounce her they are shipped off to a desolate town far away.
Once there, Leo is put in the charge of General Nesterov (Oldman). Soon the body of another boy is discovered in the same condition as Leo’s godson. After doing some digging, Leo and Nesterov discover that there are in fact nine cases of young boys being found in similar states. Together, they launch an investigation, and the hunt for the killer is on.
Okay, so let’s forget the plot I just explained to you. What is far more central in this movie is the conditions in which people were living in Soviet Russia, at the time. Bleak, depressing, paranoid, and violent there was no trust anywhere and similarly no happiness. Much like the witch trials of Salem, people would be executed for nothing more than suspicion. Espinosa, while struggling to pace his film and keep it engaging throughout, succeeds at showing the darkness of life in the setting and time of his story.
The thing that takes the film from meh to pretty good is the acting. Tom Hardy is, once again, amazing. I am pretty sure this guy can do no wrong. He is brooding, and intense, and fierce and much more. With him surrounded by the likes of Rapace, and in a lesser capacity Oldman and Joel Kinnaman, the cast really elevates the script with solid performances all around.
The climax is a little “Saw all of this coming”, and at times the thick Russian accents are a bit overdone, but all in all I liked “Child 44”. The acting alone is worth the watch. Good but not great, see it if you’ve seen your top “To see” movies, and are looking for something decent to pass the time. Or if, like me, you are just a huge fan of Tom Hardy and Gary Oldman.