Child 44

| August 4, 2015

It seems that just about anything Tom Hardy pops up in these days works for me.  He can do no wrong.  Just in the last couple of years he’s made a wonderfully theatrical drama with Locke, and the awesome Mad Max: Fury Road.  It shouldn’t surprise me that his choice to do a political thriller set in 1950s Russia would be a good one but it turns out his instincts as an actor continue to impress.

I skipped this movie when it came through theaters because the trailer didn’t leave any lasting impression on me.  Now I see that it would be very difficult to cut this film into a 2 minute trailer effectively.  Based on a novel by Tom Rob Smith, Child 44 doesn’t have a traditional 3 act movie structure.  It’s more like a novel in that it feels like it has 20 short acts/chapters, each with its own twists and turns, and climax pulling the characters in some new and interesting direction.  The scope of the movie is really impressive and while I wish they had been able to keep the runtime under 2 hours, it all mostly holds together really well and kept my interest.

The story centers around a series of gruesome murders of children that the Russian government is very keen to cover up as accidents while the murderer walks free.  Tom Hardy plays Leo, an investigator for the Russian military who isn’t allowed to investigate too closely because it would damage the illusion Russia had created for itself that its totalitarian policies – while extreme – do work.  Hardy finds himself increasingly unable to look the other way with each additional murder, slowly emerging as the hero the film needs and willing to risk everything to discover the truth.

Despite its length, the movie did a good job of keeping my interest by not being afraid to switch gears and take the story in a completely new direction.  At one point, Hardy’s wife Raisa (Noomi Rapace; Prometheus) is accused of being a spy, and by refusing to denounce her, they are both shipped to the middle of nowhere to work under the command of Gary Oldman’s (The Dark Knight) character.  Of course, even then, the story catches up with them when yet another child is found naked and tortured in the woods. 

I do want to give special credit to Noomi Rapace’s performance.  She starts off as quiet and cold, and you’re led to question her feelings for Leo and her motivations in general, but as the film unfolds, you see that every action she takes has a specific purpose, and when all that kicks in, I was retroactively enthralled by every second she had been on screen.   I like Tom Hardy, and Gary Oldman, but I feel like their talents were slightly wasted with these characters.  Rapace though was perfectly cast and perfectly utilized in her role.

The only special feature is a behind the scenes featurette.  Available now on Blu-ray and DVD from Lionsgate.

About the Author:

Joe Ketchum Joe Sanders is a podcaster, playwright, and college instructor in Kalamazoo, MI. He has a master's degree in playwriting and a bachelor's degree in creative writing from Western Michigan University, where he currently teaches thought and writing, and is the host of the Quote Unquote Guilty podcast, part of the Word Salad Network.
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