Send This One to the Gulag
Child 44 is based on a book which, amazingly, is called Child 44 and this is where it’s downfalls stem from.
The film actually reminds me of Cloud Atlas in this respect. The film tries to capture all the key points of the story but obviously can’t depict some of the minor details that actually pull the story together into a coherent piece of work. In short, I had little idea what was going on in the film.
Perhaps if you understand a lot about the political and social climate of 1950’s Russia as well as the geographical locations of many Russian cities but I guess I fell asleep in that class at school.
The film starts off stating something about the Ukraine and then cuts to a young Tom Hardy running away from an orphanage. So was he from the Ukraine? Never found that out. He then joins the army and the next thing we know is he is working for the ‘police’ where he just rounds up people that Stalin doesn’t like. Unfortunately for them they are always guilty. How and why he gets to this point is again left in a medium sized void which renders the first 20 mins virtually irrelevant.
That said, it’s at this point that the film starts to pick up as one of the supposed spies that Hardy has to investigate is his own wife played by Noomi Rapace. When Hardy defends is wife they are exiled and not killed, thanks to his reputation, to a remote part of Russia where the relationship starts to fray.
Oh wait, Hardy’s friend’s son is also murdered and his old colleague has taken Hardy’s place… you know what, fuck this, I’m even bored of describing such a disjointed plot so you must be bored reading.
On the note of murder; murder doesn’t exist in Stalin’s utopia. Of course, it does, but suggesting it does means a date night with a blindfold, a high powered rifle and a cleanup squad so everyone is scared to speak out and this is actually where the film excels. It does a great job of creating a really oppressive atmosphere dripping with paranoia. This helps to cast a question of who, if anyone, is trustworthy but even so it cannot save the misgivings of a plot that is simply better suited to being an episodic TV show.
Another aspect of the film that, if you are like me, will start to annoy you is the inconsistent accents. Hardy is actually very good but Rapace in particular seems to flit between British, French and Russian accents, which left me just wanting her to be like a child: seen and not heard.
The chemistry between Hardy and Repace is ok but really isn’t helped by the storyline that does little to build on the idea that Repace is unhappy with Hardy and spends too little time to develop where this goes.
So I’ve thrown a lot of words on e-paper but I still haven’t even got to the main plot line of the film. There is a child killer on the loose and Hardy wants to catch him – his friend’s son being one of the victims. The most victims were found halfway between Moscow and Volsk which is probably where I lost you, Volsk? What is a Volsk and how many is halfway? The film spends so long on all other plot points that again the killer and murders become underdeveloped and hollow. In fact the main point of the film really only get’s going about an hour into the film leaving very little time to develop what could have been an excellent thriller.
Near the end of the film we find out that apparently the killer knows who Hardy is but good luck finding out. We can only assume that he was in the same orphange? Is this why the killer has psychotic episodes and self abasement? We can only assume.
I love films that leave questions; Inception being a stellar example of this, but this film left too many questions. Although atmospheric and well shot the sporadic nature of the plot is a such a hindrance that unless you have read the book it’s probably best to spend your money on some Russian geopgraphy lessons… or Vodka.
- Atmospherically great
- Tom Hardy is good as ever
- Good visual aesthetic
- Factured plot lines makes it hard to get invested in the film
- Questionable accents
- Does a poor job of world building