Reviewed by Alicia Glass
Studio: Summit Entertainment
MPAA Rating: R
Director: Daniel Espinosa
Review rating: 7.5
In Stalin-era Soviet Russia, a disgraced member of the military police is determined to solve a series of child murders.
So this is Soviet Russia, where everything is bleak and the colors are all washed out, and all the citizens live in fear of the total power of the military police and their abrupt raids. Corruption is everywhere, especially in the government and the military, and any time anyone not dripping in medals decides to raise an objection, that’s usually the last thing he (or sometimes she) does. Women and children are not exempt from this tyranny, and when the young son of a military friend of our heroes is murdered, Leo Demidov determines to find the killer – no matter the cost.
So Leo (Tom Hardy) himself is no stranger to tragedy and suffering. The movie begins with a somewhat trite explanatory blurb about the orphaning and starvation of many Lithuanian children, and it seems our Leo was one of them, who got conscripted into the military police whether he liked it or not. Years later he finds himself embroiled in all kinds of shady doings, including thinking his wife is a traitorous spy, shielding his friends from the military raids, and yes, carrying out orders that would make normal men weep. Leo doesn’t seem to care for unnecessary bloodshed, and indeed when out on patrol to bring in a suspected spy and squad underling Vasili (Joel Kinnaman) decides to go all Executioner style on the ones who sheltered their quarry, Leo has to be restrained from some retaliation of his own. Then his fellow soldiers young son is murdered and Leo simply cannot let that go after hearing about other similar child murders. At the same time, Leo has to decide whether to renounce his suspected wife, or be branded a traitor along with her and demoted to some ass-end corner of the train depot towns. After some very wrenching scenes with his wife Raisa (Noomi Rapace), Leo choses the truth and the train lines, which actually turns out to be a good thing, because his next boss is General Nesterov (Gary Oldman) and he happens to be interested in these child murders too. Leo and Riasa are closing in on Mr. Murder, Vasili and the corrupt police force are closing in on Leo, and the dead child count is at a devastating, you guessed it, 44.
The movie is a Ridley Scott produced opus, and his slick fingerprints are all over it. Despite the incredibly bleak landscape, and multiple violent and tragic storylines, the movie manages to remain compelling and interesting. Based on the first book of a trilogy series by Tom Rob Smith, Child 44 is a fine bit of storytelling to watch come to life – no superpowers, no huge explosions, no world-ending apocalypse. Just one man (with perhaps some help) against the corrupted government that allows for ‘no murder in paradise’, to speak for the children who cannot.