I love channel surfing and, on the few occasions that I’m able to commandeer the remote away from my hubby, I search for new films or series to watch. Last night I came across a film I hadn’t heard of. Although Child 44 bombed at the box office, there were two major reasons I watched the film; Ridley Scott and Noomi Rapace. How was the film received at the Gilbert home? Grab a bottle of vodka and have a seat.
The 2015 film is a British/American thriller and is based on 2008 novel written by Tom Rob Smith. The first of a trilogy, the book and film is loosely based on the true story of Andrei Chikatilo aka the Butcher of Rostov, a man convicted of fifty-two murders, mostly women and children, in the Soviet Union.
The film follows Leo Demidov (Tom Hardy) as he escapes from an orphanage in 1930 during the Holodomor; the large scale extermination by hunger that was forced on millions of Ukrainians by Soviet leader, Joseph Stalin. After Leo is taken in by kindly Soviet soldiers, he soon becomes a war hero and later works his way into the Ministry of State Security better known as the MGB.
It’s now the early 1950’s and Agent Demidov and his men are responsible for the protection, policing and supervision of the Soviet Union, which means that they were dealing mostly with espionage and counterintelligence. No one was above suspicion, not even the agents themselves.
Tom Hardy’s Leo Demidov comes across, at first, as a scary man because he is single-minded in his pursuit of traitors. We do see a softer side to this Soviet hound dog when he stops a rival officer, Vasili Nikitin (Joel Kinnaman) from killing two little girls. What Leo doesn’t realize is that Vasili is obsessed with Raisa (Noomi Rapace) and Vasili knows exactly how to get rid of Leo.
Before Raisa is accused of being disloyal to the state, a child is brutally murdered. The little boy is the son of Leo’s best friend. It is the work of a serial killer, but in 1950 Russia there is no such thing as murder in paradise, so the crime is blamed on a train accident. Leo is forced to feed this official bullshit report to his friend. They all know this is a lie, but you don’t fight Stalin and live to talk about it.
After Leo refuses to accuse his wife of being a traitor, he is forced to take a low position job under General Nesterov (Gary Oldman). Raisa, who is a teacher, is forced into janitor work. While this is going on, more children are being slaughtered.
I’m not sure why the film bombed at the box office, because I found it to be quite suspenseful. If it moved slowly in places, it was to give the viewer the full impact of what it’s like to live in a totalitarian society. You didn’t know what was more frightening; life under Stalin or a killer of children roaming the train depots.
We learn that even though Leo worshipped the ground that Raisa walked on, she only married him because she was afraid to say no. He was MGB. If she’d said no, it was possible that she would have vanished inside one of the Russian prisons?
But, Leo wasn’t that type of agent. Yes, he did interrogate prisoners suspected of sabotage against Mother Russia, but he did not take pleasure in the act. Leo was a decent man caught between a rock and a Russian firing squad. Tom Hardy’s and Noomi Rapace’s performances were hypnotic as a husband and wife who fight for their marriage and their very lives while searching for the monster that preyed on children.
Child 44 is both a detective story and a love story that is set in the most horrid of times. How many children’s’ lives could have been spared had the officials acknowledged that murder happens even in a state officiated paradise.
I definitely recommend Child 44. I liked it, although I would suggest you turning on the closed caption. The forced Russian accent wasn’t easy on the ears. I’m going to watch this film again as a reminder of how good we have it here in this country. Paradise, after all, is in the mind of the beholder.