After I finished watching Child 44, I was exhausted. Was I exhausted by a film with a compelling story that made me sit on the edge of my seat for the entire run time? No, quite the opposite in fact, as I was battling to stay awake.
Child 44 is about an officer in the Soviet Union called Leo (played by Tom Hardy), who after a grisly child murder is committed, takes it upon himself to catch the killer. The film also stars Noomi Rapace, Gary Oldman, Vincent Cassel, Jason Clarke, Fares Fares and Paddy Considine. And with a cast list that good the film fails to deliver anything spectacular.
I did manage to read the first couple of chapters of Child 44 before I saw the film, and when reading it I thought the story was exciting and gripping. It’s a shame then that it doesn’t become anyone of those things when transported to the cinema screen.
To go back to actors for a second, performances from nearly all of the actors involved are very wooden, most notably Tom Hardy, who looks bored in his role as Leo. The only actor that seems to be bringing anything to the screen is Gary Oldman, who in the fleeting few scenes where he actually gets some lines of dialogue delivers them with some much needed character. All the actors don Russian accents in the film, but these fluctuate as well, with Hardy giving a thick accent, while other actors such as Paddy Considine and Charles Dance not displaying any Russian accent, leaving the film feeling stilted. Also, the film hardly uses any of some of its bigger names, the aforementioned Considine and Dance, along with Vincent Cassel and Jason Clarke, all of whom have hardly any time on screen.
The director, Daniel Espinosa directed one of my favourite films of recent times, Safe House, starring Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds. However, looking at Child 44, you would be hard pressed to even think they were made by the same director. Espinosa makes some odd choices during the film, with extreme close ups and shaky handheld camerawork littering the first half of the film. Fortunately the camerawork becomes a bit more coherent as the film goes on, but descends back into jumbled messes for two uninspired fight scenes. It’s shame because Espinosa knows how to create well shot fight scenes, (just watch Safe House), but here he fails spectacularly, giving us no clear shot of the action.
The films length is also a problem. The film is just over two hours long, which when coupled with the uninvolving action on film left me at certain points to nod off for a couple of seconds. It was through sheer determination that I managed to stay awake, just to get through the film to see if it would eventually get any better, it did not. There are certain scenes that feel over padded, and maybe they were sticking close to the source material by including it in the final cut, but it just fills the film with needless subplots that don’t go anywhere.
To add onto that, the story is a grab bag of ideas, corruption, child murder, redemption, but none are carried throughout the entire film, they’re just picked up and dropped whenever the film feels like it. This leads to an overall confusing storyline, with characters making revelations without any prior knowledge, making certain plot points feel more like deus ex machina.
In summary, Child 44 has a formidable cast list, but even that is not enough to save weak direction and a dull script, leading to a dud of a film. I might say if you’re a fan of the book you might get some enjoyment from seeing it on the big screen, but I wouldn’t hold your breath.
Score: 2/10 Don’t bother wasting your time on this one.