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Child 44 [movie, review] - Elf M. Sternberg
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Child 44 [movie, review]
Child 44 stars Tom Hardy as Leo, a Stalin-era soldier of the KGB (at the time, the MGB) working in Moscow. He's blind to the way his wife doesn't really love him and he's loyal to The State to that degree that starts to twist men's souls. After a conflict with a fellow officer, he finds himself exiled as a member of the "people's militia" to a distant coal town. He discovers that a serial killer is working the train lines, but Soviet policy is that "serial killers" are a phenomenon of the West that does not happen in Russia. His insistence that the problem is real brings him into conflict with his former MGB masters, and the two plotlines converge predictably toward the end.

Child 44 is trying to be two things at once: an investigative thriller about a cop fighting the system to track down a serial killer, and a grim reminder of the vicious stress that was Stalin-era Russia, with its denouncements and betrayals, with the common people just trying to keep their head down and survive the human grinding machine that was Stalin's Moscow.

Its sets are beautiful and many of the settings are magnificent in their ghastly grey vision of 1953 Russia. The costumes and automobiles are carefully appropriate.

Narratively, Child 44 is straightforward. But in terms of direction and editing, it's a mess; it tells too much of Leo's backstory too early and proceeds with far too easy a linear structure. Vasili's character is too easy as a backstabbing, ladder-climbing villain. The killer's speech is predictable and maudlin. Liberal use of handheld cameras during the action sequences is highly instrusive and disorienting, making you wonder "Who is holding the camera? Out of whom's eyes are we seeing?" effectively reminding you that you are watching a film, that there is someone else there holding the camera.

I don't know that I can recommend it. It's a good movie, and not a waste of your time, but you will leave the theater with a vague sense that there was much missing, and much could have been done, but wasn't, with the material on hand.

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Comments
omahas From: omahas Date: May 1st, 2015 06:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
[mild spoilers]

I don't know that I would consider the killer's speech typical. And especially if you are looking through the eyes of 1950's Soviet Union, where murder is a concept of capitalism and doesn't happen in "paradise" (Communist lands), there is a definite shock for Russians that the abuse of Stalin's starvation of the Ukranians in the 30's turned him into a mentally ill murderer...and how the MGB leadership excused it as the German's turning him into a murder-spy during his two years of capture in WWII. Stalin could do no wrong.

Yet Leo, the "hero" could see that it was not the Germans. How many others in the Soviet Union had started to see it, but refused to say it out loud for fear of being branded a traitor and murdered?

Edited at 2015-05-01 06:36 pm (UTC)
tommy50702 From: tommy50702 Date: July 29th, 2015 02:23 pm (UTC) (Link)

The book was awesome.
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