So I watched Child 44
The main draw factor to this movie for me was the impeccable acting talent displayed on the poster – Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, Noomi Rapace; how can you not watch a movie with that kind of talent on show? Plus the premise of the movie seemed interesting, a little Soviet-era Russia, missing children, it seemed like there was no way this could turn out a bad movie. I’m actually glad I watched this movie because it taught me the, ever so important, lesson of: don’t judge a movie by the quality actors on its poster.
Okay, basic plot: remember that awesome scene in Inglorious Basterds where ‘The Jew Hunter’ confronts the milk farmer about him harboring Jewish enemies of the state beneath his floorboards? Now remember the nail-biting tension of missing children in Prisoners? Now think back to the last time you watched Oprah or Dr Phil and saw people stuck in a loveless marriage. Now, finally, imagine someone made a movie about all three of those things, in the DULLEST way possible. That’s Child 44
This movie’s biggest problem is that it’s too ambitious. I’m going to say ambitious because ‘disorganised’ and ‘stupid’ just sound a bit too harsh. The reason I say ambitious is because this movie is a book adaptation and one of the biggest criticisms fans always have regarding adaptations is that the movie always glosses over or completely omits important elements of the story. Now, I haven’t read the book so I have to assume that all the superfluous subplots that were present in the movie were there because the director was trying to portray every single thing that was in the book and that’s ambitious, ill advised actually but let’s stick with ambitious.
The problem with adaptations, and not this film specifically but all adaptations in general, is that it is not possible to condense every single piece of a 200 page story into two hours. With books you can have an entire chapter dedicated to a soliloquy about a character’s feelings towards the shirt he’s wearing and how it reminds him of his childhood etc etc, which works great for books because you have to create this character in your imagination so the layering and development that such chapters provides really helps make the character real. This, however, does not translate well to film. You don’t have twenty minutes for a character to have isolated, internal conversations like that; if you did, these movies would be thirty hours long.
That being said, that doesn’t mean studios should split film adaptations of one book into three movies in the name of doing the story justice. That’s just a cashgrab and we all know what you’re doing, that’s right I’m talking to you Hobbit series, Harry Potter, Twilight, Hunger Games and Divergent. Okay, I’ve gone off track here. My point is that when you adapt a book, you shouldn’t try to bring everything from the book into the movie because you don’t have the time to do it and that’s this movie’s biggest problem – a lack of focus. There’s so many subplots all taking place simultaneously and I feel like if the director and screenwriter had decided on one or two to be the focus and to put the rest in the periphery or not include them in the movie at all, this movie might have been really entertaining.
This movie is supposed to be a crime thriller about a serial killer targeting children set against the back drop of Soviet-era Russia. And it is that but it’s also a poorly crafted drama about the forced marriage between Tom Hardy and Noomi Rapace’s character; but then it’s also a lackluster political piece on the dogmatism of Communism; but then it’s also a million other things that do nothing to drive the plot or help you connect with the characters. This movie is trying to do to much; it’s trying to be to much and that’s where the root of its failure lies.
All that aside, this movie is wonderfully acted. Tom Hardy could play the stoic badass in his sleep at this point. I love watching him on screen (even if the movie is horrible) because he fully commits to his roles and he really embodies the character. Noomi Rapace is delightful in this movie as well. She has this wonderfully expressive face that tells you exactly what she thinks and feels without her having to open her mouth and say it. Joel Kinnaman was actually the stand out performer in this film. I don’t think his acting was amazing but it was significantly higher than his dreary performances in Robocop and Safe House so i was pleasantly surprised but not astounded by his work in this film. Gary Oldman is a master of his craft and to try to compliment him with my limited writing skill would only insult the work he does in this film and the wonderful work he’s done in all of his films.
This movie also fails on the technical side for me. Not only is there no coherence in the script but I also felt there was no coherence in the editing of this movie. The scenes don’t flow into each other but instead feel like they were shot by one hundred different directors who then sent what they had recorded to a random third party who compiled the film together with no vision of what tone or story was trying to be conveyed. It’s a bit of a mess actually.
Overall, this movie is a story of amazing talent wasted on a scatterbrained script and poor direction. I can’t think of a reason to recommend seeing this movie – besides the amazing acting – definitely not worth a trip to the cinema. 4/10