Child 44

Initial release: April 15, 2015
Director: Daniel Espinosa
Running time: 2h 17m
Screenplay: Richard Price
Producers: Ridley Scott, Greg Shapiro, Michael Schaefer
Cast
Tom Hardy – Leo Demidov
Gary Oldman – Timur Nesterov
Noomi Rapace – Raisa
Joel Kinnaman – Vasili

In order to survive, let alone prosper, in Soviet Russia you needed a certain skillset. Above all it was necessary to adapt to whatever ‘truth’ the Party was at the time promoting. Those who clung to an objective view of truth did not do well. In the Stalinist era notions of personal integrity and honour were weaknesses likely to get you killed (at best!). To survive you had to be prepared to compromise yourself and betray anyone.

Secret police agent Leo Demidov (Tom Hardy) hasn’t learned these life lessons. He is determined to catch a serial killer who preys on young boys even when the Soviet system decides that the boys are all victims of tragic accidents. Leo’s psychopathic rival Vasili (Joel Kinnaman), tells him bluntly “There is no crime in Paradise.” Murder is strictly a Western, Capitalist disease.

To compound matters when Leo is asked to denounce his wife, Raisa (Noomi Rapace) as a traitor and Western spy he refuses. Predictably, and rapidly, Leo goes from hero to zero, stripped of his privileges, and sent to a posting in a dirty, polluted and bleak, back-of-beyond outpost.

Yet still Leo pursues the killer. He even manages to enlist Gen. Mikhail Nesterov (Gary Oldman) as an ally.

Child 44 works on a basic thriller level as we wonder whether Leo will bring the killer to justice or be blocked by Vasili and the Soviet System. It’s more than that though – it is a bleak indictment of a system that, just like Nazism, was anti-human – corruptive of all that is noble in the human spirit.

Child 44 is loosely based on the crimes of a real-life serial killer dubbed the Rostov Ripper in early 1950s Soviet Russia and adapted from the novel by Tom Rob Smith.

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