Magazine article Variety

Child 44

Magazine article Variety

Child 44

Article excerpt

Child 44

DIRECTOR: Daniel Espinosa

STARRING: Tom Hardy, Cary Oldman, Noomi Rapace

Part serial-killer thriller, part old-school anti-Soviet propaganda, "Child 44" plays like a curious relic of an earlier Cold War mindset, when Western audiences took comfort that they were living on the right side of the Iron Curtain, and relied on movies to remind them of such. Here, the central character is an obedient MGB agent played by Tom Hardy, who, like the rest of the pic's starry Euro ensemble, delivers his lines in a thick Russian accent - a distraction that feels as outdated as director Daniel Espinosa's choice to shoot on celluloid, plunging the story's already grim Stalin-era conditions even deeper into shadow. Nostalgia combined with a certain amount of pageantry should be enough to draw those who miss Red Scare spy stories to this expansive Ridley Scott production (which he originally intended to direct), though not enough to encourage either sequels or imitators.

Set in 1953, but haunted by earlier events, including the notorious hunger campaign (or Holodomor) that Stalin waged against the Ukraine, this adaptation of Tom Rob Smith's novel presents an image of the Soviet Union in which ordinary citizens live in fear of peers and secret police alike. The toxic atmosphere permeates every aspect of the production, from the grime-encrusted decor to its heavy industrial sound design. Ironically, the authorities don't concern themselves with traditional crime fighting, living by the maxim "There is no murder in paradise" and focusing their attention instead on curbing subversive behavior.

How then to explain the body of a young boy found naked and mutilated beside the railroad tracks in Moscow? Anticipating trouble, the senior MGB officer, Maj. Kuzmin (Vincent Cassel), enlists star investigator Leo Demidov (Hardy) to deliver the official report, which lists the cause of death as an accident. …

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