Child 44 Review

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By Justin Jasso (@jjasso007)

Period pieces can be a hard sell in Hollywood. Now, when you hear “period piece,” you may think Victorian England or something along those lines, but in reality, it can be used to describe any period type of film outside of what is present day. American Westerns could be considered a “period piece,” though we just call them Westerns. And those are also hard sells. Daniel Espinosa’s (Safe House) latest film, Child 44, takes us back to the 1950’s in Stalinist Russia for a crime drama that hits home in today’s world.

Leo Demidov (Tom Hardy) is a loyal member of the Russian state. A war hero and true believer of the Communist party ideals, he follows his orders to the smallest detail, putting personal feelings aside for the good of the country. He is often sent to “take care” of those who are charged with treason, executing his orders with a workman attitude. It isn’t until a child is found dead and the State’s cause of death doesn’t add up that Leo begins questioning his values. And when the state tests Leo by having him arrest a man he knows is innocent and to arrest his own wife, Raisa Demidov (Noomi Rapace), that Leo makes the choice to flee with his wife and become an enemy himself. On the run, Leo must protect his wife and find out who this child killer is, but with so many people after him, will Leo be able to clear his name and stop a child killer before he’s caught?

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Child 44 is the first book in a trilogy based on the character of Leo. With the prevalence of child kidnappings today, the film is not without relevance. Tom Hardy adds star power to the film to further bring in audience members. The film plays like a deep-seated drama with spurts of action mixed in. It is almost like watching a Russian version of CSI mixed with Elementary. The story is methodical and focuses on the little details, allowing Leo to put together the bigger picture and make decisions knowing there are consequences regardless of what choice he makes. The narrative moves along at an even, albeit slow, pace, but there is enough substance to fill up the dragging time. Espinosa brings us into the world of Stalinist Russia where even the slightest whisper can be heard and the threat of death or jail hangs on what comes out of your next breath. Even in what appears to be a slow-paced society, danger lurked around every corner.

Tom Hardy has become one of the better actors in Hollywood, evidenced by his performances in films such as Inception, Lawless, Warrior, and Legend (being released later this year, review coming then!), and he once again displays quality thespian work here. How a man deals with his job varies depending on the person, and Hardy brings the depth of emotion with Leo. From his early years in the war, Leo builds up a tough exterior, seldom displaying an inner gentleness. But what wasn’t physically displayed is seen in the eyes and the nuances of the body, which are in full display here. Hardy embodies Leo, allowing us to understand the situation and the real fear that resides around him. Noomi Rapace dons the part of a devoted wife, one that supports her husband and believes in him. Yet she has her own strengths, displaying them through her actions and ideals, not believing everything the state says and going against the state with an anti-government group. She brings a strength matching that of her husband making them a perfect couple on screen.

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Child 44 won’t necessarily be for everyone. It is heavy on the drama and takes place during Stalin’s reign in Russia, something to which most of us cannot relate. High points are few and far between, but if you enjoy watching films with quality character work or those which are like games of chess played by skilled players, then this film may be for you. Child 44 isn’t going to break any box-office numbers, and it may not do well in theaters, but the film is solid in its own right. Should you run out and see it? Not really, unless you just absolutely need to have some Tom Hardy in your life.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars


    One Comment

  1. RoseApril 17th, 2015 at 11:45 pm

    It’s a pity the film seems not to be as good as it could have been but i go for the performance of Tom Hardy…that will be enough for me.

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