28 Aug - 3 Sep 2015 #773

Child 44

What a shame to have to waste such talent in such a mundane manner
Sophia Pande

There is a special place for all the people in the world who love a well realised thriller. I’m speaking about those of us who adore something along the lines of a John Le Carré novel that has been translated into film, preferably in the style of Jean-Pierre Melville – the famous French filmmaker whose films ooze with style, minutely planned out set pieces that add to the atmosphere of suspense, and are at the same time neo-realistic crime procedurals that bring you right into the gritty (albeit stylised) world of the film, be it to do with bank robbers (Le Cercle Rouge, 1970) or with spies (Army of Shadows, 1969).

Unfortunately, [Child 44](Child 44 ) with all of its potential, written by Richard Price and clearly meant to shine in the aforementioned genre and produced by Ridley Scott himself fails as tribute to those films it seeks to emulate. While it successfully creates a whole world (that of 1950s post war Russia, ruled by Stalin) in which the main character takes on a serial killer who targets young boys, this is but a plot device which is put in place to develop the trajectory of one Leo Demidov (the usually wonderful Tom Hardy). Demidov inadvertently becomes a feted member of the insidious Ministry of State Security (MGB) after distinguishing himself in World War II.

With a budget of $50 million, the film is beautifully, albeit dolefully shot, has a cast full of brilliant actors such as Gary Oldman, Noomi Rapace, Jason Clarke, and Vincent Cassel, and yet, this whole endeavour, which clearly looked very promising on paper, made just $3.3 million at the box office.

Even at a running time of 137 minutes, I continued to watch the film, hanging on to the hope that something would click into place (with actors like that, how can things go wrong?) to salvage this unwieldy self-serious film (there isn’t a single laugh, perhaps not even a real smile) that never ever lightens up or pays you back for your endless patience.

This is a classic example of how to go wrong while making a film; the script, which is usually the backbone of the film, is self-indulgent and without a disciplined director to anchor its weight. As Leo goes through a series of horrific persecutions in a terrifically paranoid Soviet era Russia, we learn about his life as a former orphan, his love for his wife Raisa (played by an unusually one note Noomi Rapace), and his instinctive compassion for children, yet we never ever grow to care, either for him, his troubles and certainly never for his oddly unemotional wife. What a shame to have to waste such talent in such a mundane manner.

Watch trailer of Child 44