Tom Rob Smith’s 2008 political soviet era thriller has been made into a Hollywood film which has managed to lose most of the richness and intrigue of the novel.
Set in the USSR in 1953, the film follows secret police officer Leo Demidov (played by Tom Hardy), who was raised in an orphanage and became a national hero during the Second World War.
After a minor bust up with his colleague Vasili (Joel Kinnamen), Leo is asked by his boss (Vincent Cassel) to spy on his wife Raisa (Noomi Rapace), who, while being a teacher with a good heart also has a few shady acquaintances.
Meanwhile, the body of a young boy is found by some train tracks, but the state refuses to look into the case as anything more than an accident as according to the communist party ‘there is no murder in paradise’. Trapped between a rock and a hard place, Leo must decide if he is to do the right thing, or do what is expected of him.
Since Leo refuses to denounce his wife, they are sent out of Moscow to the town of Volsk, where his commanding officer (Gary Oldman) agrees to help Leo investigate after the body of a child is found in a similar state to the one in Moscow.
With Leo’s work and marriage issues, there is a lot going on, and the film feels rushed and crowded even though it runs for over two hours. All the storylines end in a way that feels glossed over and I only understood it because I have read the book, my friend who came with me to see the film had not read the book and was left confused, so I had to explain the ending to her.
The saving grace of the film is the cast who all give great performances despite the almost comical Russian accents they attempt. The USSR looks grim and the production team did not hold back when it came to flinging mud, literally and figuratively.
Everything about this film meant that it should be better than it is, if you have read the book then you may enjoy Child 44, if not, then you might be left confused by it.