Based on the first of a trilogy by Tom Rob Smith and set in the Stalin era of the Soviet Union. The plot is about an idealistic pro-Stalin security officer who decides to investigate a series of child murders in a country where supposedly this sort of crime doesn’t exist. The state would not hear of the existence of a child murderer let alone a serial killer. He gets demoted and exiled but decides, with just the help of his wife, to continue pursuing the case.
Genre : Thriller
Country : Czech Republic/UK/Romania/Russia
Tom Hardy : Leo Demidov
Noomi Rapace : Raisa Demidov
Joel Kinnaman : Vasili
Director : Daniel Espinosa
“I would rather spend a lifetime in a shithole like this with you,
than spend one minute in Moscow without you.”
First let me clarify something. I’m not an anti-communist or supporter of anti-Russian propaganda. Neither am I an anti-capitalist or against the other superpower on the other side of the planet. I’m a tiny little person who leads a modest life in probably one of the smallest countries in the world. To label this film as propaganda against the USSR, sounds to me in the present world situation quite exaggerated. Who the hell would benefit from that? Isn’t this movie trying to visualize the circumstances in which ordinary people had to live and survive in the post-war period? I can’t tell if the shown images are truthful or not. But I’m glad I’m not living in such harsh conditions these days.
What a depressing and frightening regime this must have been with repression and blind obedience as main values. Turning in others as a resort. Those who are your blood brothers today, could become your worst enemies the next day. Regardless of your status or rank. Before you know it, you’re deported to the farthest corner of Mother Russia to do some filthy work in deplorable conditions. Downgraded to a meaningless and insignificant person. And that’s the strong point of this film. The portrait of a society under control of a police institution, in this case the Russian State Security (MGB, forerunner of the KGB) in a post-war, post-Stalin regime. The MGB was the security apparatus of the USSR that made sure that loyalty to the communist regime, remained intact. Dissidents, anti-communist and political opponents (and annoying individuals) were carefully chased down and removed. The MGB wasn’t perhaps as violent as the NKVD, but they weren’t choirboys either, I guess.
“Child 44” is grayish, dirty and confrontational. The misery, the poverty, the paranoia, the hopelessness and the ruthless repression are portrayed in an impressive way. It’s certainly not a film that makes you happy. Unfortunately the main topic (a topic the whole movie actually revolves around) was pushed a bit into the background. The serial killer theme is rather poorly developed. The only interesting thing was the way they dealt with these crimes. The existence of a serial killer was unthinkable (“There’s no murder in paradise“). Only a capitalist regime can produce a killer. That’s what the Soviet doctrine claims. The actual murders are scanty visualized. The final denouement and unmasking was a bit too simple. So don’t expect a “Silence of the Lambs Made in Russia”, but a kind of docu-drama about this chilly Russia.
In terms of acting, there’s really nothing to wrong, though most characters were stereotypical portrayed. Many will criticize the use of a fake Russian accent. Perhaps it’s for some very annoying, but personally I thought this contributed to the overall atmosphere of the film. A Russian speaking perfect English would be unnatural to me. And it would make me really nervous if all conversations would be held purely in Russian. Tom Hardy plays an outstanding role as the war hero Leo Demidov who slowly but surely sees his status breaking down. Noomi Rapace (I thought she was magnificent as Lisbeth Salander in “Män som hatar kvinnor“) stands her ground as the embittered wife of Leo. And Joel “Run all night” Kinnaman wasn’t so bad as the vengeful Vasili (a coward who becomes threatening due to his acquired dominant position). Maybe it’s because I haven’t read the book this film is based on, since I thought this was an excellent film. But there’s this golden rule when it’s about book adaptations. In most cases they disappoint. Da?