Child 44
dir Daniel Espinosa
scr Richard Price
prd Ridley Scott, Michael Schaefer, Greg Shapiro
with Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, Gary Oldman, Joel Kinnaman, Paddy Considine, Fares Fares, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Tara Fitzgerald, Lorraine Ashbourne, Vincent Cassel, Jason Clarke, Charles Dance
release UK/US 17.Apr.15
15/UK Summit 2h17
Child 44
On the case: Hardy and Rapace

oldman kinnaman considine
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Child 44 An overcomplicated plot makes this film fascinating but difficult to engage with. It's strikingly well-made, and the script is very smart, but by trying to include such a knotted web of story angles, there's no central element that connects on an emotional level. But it's a suspenseful journey.

In 1953 Moscow, Leo (Hardy) is a war hero in the military police, hunting down spies. When they discover the tortured body of an 8-year-old boy, son of Leo's best pal (Fares), Leo has to be forcefully reminded by his boss (Cassel) that Soviet society is such a paradise that murder can't happen here. After refusing to back down, Leo and his wife Raisa (Rapace) are relocated to the industrial hellhole Volsk, where they discover more boys' bodies. Leo gets his new boss (Oldman) to help investigate, but his old rival Vasili (Kinnaman) declares war.

Of all of the plot strands, this last one feels like the most unnecessary, as Vasili ruthlessly torments Leo and Raisa in ways that stretch credibility, especially in the final act. Meanwhile there are far more interesting things going on both in the grisly investigation and in Leo and Raisa's complex relationship. With high production values, the filmmakers give everything equal weight, making the film feel like it's trying to be a big Russian epic and leaving us unsure where to look, especially in the brutal and messy shaky-cam action sequences.

Matching director Espinosa's relentless intensity, Hardy delivers a riveting performance that overflows with both intelligence and emotion. Transparently revealing where Leo's true intentions lie in each moral dilemma, his interaction is complex and often moving. Rapace gives one of her best performances as the conflicted Raisa, while Oldman shines in a smaller role that's strangely sidelined as things progress.

But then, all of the plot strands suffer as the film rumbles past the two-hour mark. By far the most engaging aspect is the personal journey of Leo and Raisa, which is packed with wrinkles and surprises and yet ends on an oddly predictable note. This leaves the movie's mystery and thriller narratives to battle it out for attention, and both lose as a result, mainly due to the imposition of an overarching villain beyond Considine's unhinged serial killer. So while it's set at a fascinating point in Soviet history, with various gripping storylines, the movie as a whole feels interesting but uninvolving.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, sexuality 14.Apr.15

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