First I want to say that I’ve read the novel of the same name written by Tom Rob Smith, and to say that I’m disappointed with this movie is a great understatement. I absolutely loved the book and was excited they were making it into a movie. What got me even more excited was the top notch cast that assembled. Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, Noomi Rapace, and the director of Safe House, Daniel Espinosa. This should have been an enjoyable myster/thriller. To anyone that hasn't read or seen Child 44, spoilers will be shed.
I started getting worried when I heard that Lionsgate basically shunned the release of this movie by only releasing it in around 500 theatres in the states. Nowhere near my hometown was showing it; fortunately I had a business trip in Houston and was able to catch the movie there. I didn’t know if Lionsgate just didn’t want to throw any more money at it, because only one trailer had been released and there was absolutely no buzz. I knew this was a bad sign because that usually means the studio doesn’t have faith in its product and will just cut its losses. But this didn’t deter me from still being interested in Child 44. I love the book and the cast, so I still had hope for a good movie.
The basic plot of the movie is as follows. Leo Demidov (Tom Hardy) grew up an orphan without ever knowing his true family. He eventually joined the military and became a celebrated war vet. Now he works for the Soviet MGB where he hunts down citizens that are believed to be spies. His wife Raisa Demidov (Noomi Rapace) is later believed to be a spy and Leo has to choose between denouncing her or being an accomplice to a spy. Leo ends up finding no evidence against Raisa, so he doesn’t denounce her. Leo is then demoted and is sent out of Moscow along with Raisa all while being harassed by Joel Kinnamen's character. In the midst of all this, there are children randomly being found dead near train tracks. The Soviet government maintains that these kids were killed in a train accident, but the evidence shows that they are definitely murders. Leo ends up being intrigued by these cases and believes them to be murders. He is met with strong resistance by everyone in the MGB and the affiliated police force led by Gary Oldman’s character. Both Leo and Raisa start unravelling this mystery while at the same time being hunted by the MGB.
So I’ll say the things I did like about the movie first. The acting was very good as expected. I don’t think Tom Hardy is capable of giving a bad performance. Joel Kinnamen did a good job as an antagonist, so I’m starting to like him a bit more. For the most part the movie did a lot of things almost exactly the same as the book, which is always a pleasant surprise to people who read the books first. There were several parts that were intense and thrilling, but they were short-lived.
Now the bad stuff. Sure the accents could get annoying after a while but I’ll forgive that. What I could not stand was how bad the script was. Honestly, I don’t know how anyone who didn’t read the book could watch the movie and understand what was going on. It was so disjointed and some changes in the movie didn’t make any sense. Even I was confused at times, and I read the book so I should know what’s going on! Spoiler Alert: at the end of the book, Leo confronts the killer at his house and finds out that they’re brothers. In the movie, Leo ends up finding the killer in the woods and doesn’t find out they’re brothers. I was completely shocked; that’s the big twist in the book and the movie didn’t reveal it.
To sum it up, I was really let down by Child 44. Tom Hardy is my favorite actor out right now and this is easily his worst movie, but not because of him. It’s hard to not feel bad for Hardy, seeing him give a good performance only to be let down by a botched script. To anyone that watched the movie and didn’t enjoy it, this is a true case where the book is much better than the movie.