Child 44 is set in the Stalin era USSR, where "there can be no murder in paradise" because murder is a disease of capitalism, not communism, that's at least according to Stalin. We follow Leo Demidov (Tom Hardy) as a pro-Stalin security officer and former war hero who's disgraced when his wife Raisa (Noomi Rapace) comes under suspicion as being a spy. When Leo refuses to denounce his wife as a traitor, he's severely demoted and sent to where is essentially no man's land. Leo is considered guilty by association and no proof is needed, only doubt. Leo is constantly harangued by Vasili (Joel Kinnaman) who's envious of Leo's earlier rise to success, and is consumed with rancor, bitterness and jealously towards him, partly because of Leo's previous public admonishing of him. Leo finds himself working under General Mikhail Nesterov (Gary Oldman) and over time Leo persuades him to allow him to solve this case of a serial killer, with a little help from his wife.
Finding himself for all intents and purposes 'already dead' and with nothing to lose, Leo decides to go after the serial killer of children, a murderer who the government refuses to acknowledge on any level whatsoever. I think in large part to do right by his friend from the war whose child was the killer's 44th victim, but it's hard to gauge Leo's motivations due to his taciturn nature. Child 44 definitely paints the Stalin-era USSR in an unflattering light, probably deservedly so, but this is a fictional story, it never claims to be based on true events, so relax.
Child 44 has a lot of angles going on, but I never had trouble following the plot, just so long as you pay attention to the story it makes perfect sense. Child 44 captures the ubiquitous paranoia, constant deception and absolute desperation to do whatever's necessary to protect your loved ones in such a precarious and totalitarian state very well. It's a state of 'living' that very few younger people can truly relate to or understand, but should try because it might help them appreciate their freedoms a little more than they typically do. The suspense is built slowly, if a little scattered at times, but it all comes together nicely. I liked seeing all the clandestine detective work and the massive risks some people took to try make a difference, no matter how insignificant it may have seemed at the time.
Child 44 has been compared to Citizen X, and while they do share similar premises, Child 44 is set in a much earlier time, and in a much different USSR. Child 44 was shot reasonably well, even the train sequence was good, but understandably tight and frenetic. The climax at the end should have been a lot better though, I wanted it to be more gratifying than it was. The fight was so muddy I couldn't even tell who was who and the shaky cam was a pain in the ass, and I didn't even really notice the shaky cam until the climax where it became obvious and distracting. The details of the resolution of Leo is vague, but just remember that Stalin died in 1953, the same year that Child 44 took place, so a lot of changes were being made and a lot of things were done and undone. It's just a shame that Child 44 wasn't given a wider release and while it was flawed, it was still a thrilling period piece with a lot of suspense and good acting, especially from Tom Hardy.
Written by - The Sentry - 22/07/2015