Matthew Austin

Review: Child 44 “the poorly written plot and sluggish pace means that Child 44 is a forgettable film”

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Child 44

Directed by Swedish film-maker Daniel Espinosa and based on Tom Rob Smith’s novel of the same name, Child 44 focuses on MGB agent Leo Demidov (played by Tom Hardy) as he investigates a series of brutal child murders in Stalin’s USSR. With a premise like that, the film has the potential to be an interesting and suspenseful mystery thriller. However, Child 44 fails to live up to its potential, with a sluggish pace, bizarre narrative choices and a bloated plot, making it a messy and frustrating experience.

Clocking in at around 2 hours and 20 minutes, Child 44 takes its time to get going. It takes a good half-hour for the main narrative centre to arrive, and while it does contain a few riveting and suspenseful scenes, the film never really takes off, and sometimes comes dangerously close to being boring.

Despite this, Child 44 features an excellent cast, who mostly deliver some good performances. Tom Hardy and Noomi Rapace, who plays Demidov’s wife Raisa, are the stand-outs. The two have excellent chemistry, and the scenes they share are some of the best in the film. Joel Kinnaman also gives a good performance as a psychotic MGB agent and Demidov’s rival, although his character is sometimes poorly written and often comes across as incompetent. Gary Oldman plays a general in the remote outpost that Demidov is exiled to, and while he delivers a good performance his character isn’t in the film as much as I’d expected. He gets a strong introduction but then takes a back seat to Demidov and Raisa, which ultimately seems like a waste. Also underused is Jason Clarke, who is in the film for all of about ten minutes, although at least his character is more important to the story than Oldman’s.

One of the biggest problems with Child 44 is with its plot. While the basic premise of a serial killer preying on children has a lot of potential, there are far too many sub-plots or scenes that don’t add anything that bogs down the film and makes it a chore to watch at times. On top of that, the killer is inexplicably revealed about halfway through the film, killing any momentum it may have had going for it. Although it does end quite strongly, it goes on for far too long and I was ultimately glad when it was over.

In the end, while Child 44 may not be the worst film ever, it doesn’t do anything to justify the price of admission. While the performances are generally good and a few scenes are well done, the poorly written plot and sluggish pace means that Child 44 is a forgettable film, which is disappointing considering all it had going for it.

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