Despite the calibre of the actors the thriller, Child 44, is a disappointment. The film is adapted from the bestselling Tom Rob Smith novel, which tells the story of Leo Demidov (played by Tom Hardy), an orphan of the horrific famine in the Ukraine in the 1930s. After running away from his orphanage, Demidov joins the Russian army, and his participation in the Reichstag in 1945 cements him as a war hero.
Fast forward a few years later, and Demidov is a well-respected secret police agent, hunting down traitors of the paranoid communist regime. His loyalty is soon tested. The body of Demidov’s godson is found next to a train track. Even though the boy was clearly horrifically murdered, Demidov has to convince the child’s father and his friend, Alexei, that is was an accident. After all, as the Communist adage states, “there is no murder in paradise” (that grey, dreary, distrustful paradise that was the USSR).
After one of his rivals reports Demidov’s wife, Raisa (Noomi Rapace), as being a suspected turncoat, Demidov has to make another hard choice: denounce her and let her be killed, or stand by her, and destroy both their lives, as well as those of Demidov’s parents. When Raisa reveals she’s pregnant, Demidov’s decision is made. Despite no evidence being found against Raisa, the two are condemned to a provincial outpost, where Demidov is demoted to the militia and Raisa has to swap her teaching post for a cleaning job.
When the bodies of more young boys start popping up, it’s clear a serial killer is on the move. Demidov convinces his new boss, General Mikhail Nesterov (Gary Oldman), to stop the psychopath.
At times, the film manages to provide some tension, but fails to reach a peak. For the most part it’s a vanilla thriller starring good actors with bad Russian accents.
Russia banned Child 44 even before its release, saying the film reflects on the country with evocations of Mordor. The film is so bland there’s been none of the outrage at this censorship, as during the banning of The Interview. It’s likely that no one has noticed.
Rating: 2 out of 5
Director: Daniel Espinosa
Cast: Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, Gary Oldman