Overall Grade: (C+)
This film looks the part of a time-period crime mystery but with an extremely cluttered story-line the true bright spot is Hardy’s performance alone.
A determined member of the military police in Stalin-era Russia who has been removed from his Moscow post investigates a series of child murders happening along a train route.
I will begin by saying I have not read the 2008 novel of the same title written by Tom Rob Smith, nor have I seen “Citizen X” so in regards to this films accuracy to the true-life events, I cannot comment. As a film on its own it was still a relatively entertaining time-period crime mystery that does intrigue (at times). The story-line felt detailed and highly ambitious, but seemingly too ambitious to the point of feeling unfocused.
There were good sub-plots in this one but in my opinion to the point of there being so much the writers wanted to tell that the story-lines they filled this film with for the most part felt glossed over and lacking detail. The child-murders were supposed to be the focal point of the film but with a small love story, a rivalry among two soldiers, the workings of the Russian government at the time, and the addition of Gary Oldman’s angle in the story there was so much going on that in the end much of it lacked the intended impact.
There were many good things about this film but in the end the messy feel of the script failed to help bolster the already great performances, visually grim settings, detailed wardrobes and surprisingly strong accents. “Child 44” does a great job of pulling you in to Stalin-era Russia using appealing settings that portray the dire social status of the country in the early 50’s.
The cast accents were all spot on and other than being hard to understand at times none of the cast impressions of Russian dialect hindered the feel of the entire movie. Something that can often happen in stories like these. But it does raise the question of why there were no truly Russian actors in this film. With a cast from a range of ethnic backgrounds, the Russian accents became crucial when they did not need to be.
Tom Hardy was excellent and his performance alone makes this film much better than it would have been with his absence. He looked and felt the part and was compelling throughout with his calculating delivery. He portrays his characters inner conflict in believable style numerous times during this film and was compelling on his own. Noomi Rapace was also very good and continues to show strong, believable chemistry with Hardy on every project they work on together.
Her character could have been much more intriguing if her sub-plot would have given more information to why she felt and acted the way she did. With only a couple lines of dialogue, why she feels the way she does about Hardy’s character and their relationship came across as thin and uninspired, and made her for a most part an unlikable character.
Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman, Jason Clarke and Vincent Cassel all had nice parts in the pace of the film but in the end their roles were so saturated into and very busy script. Other than Kinnaman, none really brought much impact or energy to the enjoyment of the movie overall. Kinnaman was a very strong character and filled the shoes of a true antagonist. He continues to build he young resume with capable performances and this one was no different being another strong reason along with Hardy for watching this long story.
In the end “Child 44” certainly had its moments. There was a deeply woven story the writers wanted to tell but unfortunately they seemed too focused on the not so interesting angles and forgot about the main plot the spotlight should have been on which was the child murders. This could have been a great crime mystery and with so many things done right in this one it is a shame the cluttered script meandered for much too long on the wrong topics.