Tom Hardy’s tenacious secret policeman hunts for a child murderer amid the paranoia and terror of Stalin’s Soviet Union in this adaptation of Tom Rob Smith’s bestselling novel.
Get past some contrived plotting – and the needlessly thick Russian accents adopted by the mostly British cast – and this 1950s-set crime thriller is grimly fascinating. Hardy’s officer, Leo Demidov, winds up in exile after refusing to denounce his wife (The Girl With a Dragon Tattoo’s Noomi Rapace), yet doggedly persists in his pursuit of a serial killer of young boys – an extremely perilous business in a state that denies the very existence of murder, a supposedly ‘capitalist disease’.
Viewed as a police procedural, Safe House director Daniel Espinosa’s film is undeniably sluggish; yet as a portrait of a society warped by fear and ideology, Child 44 is genuinely compelling. Hardy is excellent, too.