Tom Hardy and Noomi Rapace team up again in Child 44 (2014), a grim historical mystery that brings Soviet-era Russia to chilling life. In mid-fifties Moscow, Leo Demidov (Hardy) is a war hero whose exploits have elevated him to the higher ranks of the Soviet military police. With his beautiful wife Raisa (Rapace) and a position of power and privilege, Leo has it all until a grudge from an old rival strips away the flimsy façade to reveal the lies and corruption underlying his success. Exiled to a remote outpost, Leo, with Raisa’s help, undertakes a mission of redemption: solving a series of connected child murders along the vast Russian railway system.
With its rich period detail and dark, brutal setting, Child 44 is a polished production full of solid acting, especially from Hardy, whose range continues to impress. The film has a peculiar structure, front-loading its running time with world-building and rushing its ending; the focus seems less on the specifics of the mystery, and more on the officiousness of the Soviet backdrop. How do you solve a murder in a police state where the very bureaucracy claims that murder doesn’t exist? In a way, the movie is more successful depicting such a setting than in telling a compelling story within it. But for fans of Hardy, Rapace, and the chameleonic Gary Oldman, it’s worth a watch, especially if the viewer possesses an added interest in the geopolitical history.