"Overcoming Socialist, Collectivist Tyranny To Do Good"
CHILD 44 is a hard-edged, violent adult thriller about a security officer in communist Soviet Russia in 1953 fighting his country’s socialist bosses to solve a series of brutal child murders. CHILD 44 has an important story to tell about communist, socialist tyranny, but the plot is slow going, and there’s some very strong violence and gratuitous “f” words.
Based on an acclaimed novel by Tom Rob Smith, the movie opens in 1933. A brief epilogue on the screen explains that Stalin has ordered the death of millions of people in Ukraine thru starvation. Stalin’s merciless orders have left many starving orphans in their wake, including a young boy who’s forgotten his first name. A soldier re-names the boy Leo because he’s “like a lion.”
Cut to 1945 in Berlin, where Leo becomes a national hero after he’s picked to be the soldier holding the red communist flag of the hammer and sickle over Hitler’s defeated Reichstag. Cut again to 1953, where Leo is now an officer in the MGB, one of the precursors to the notorious KGB. Leo is a top investigator ferreting out “counter-revolution and sabotage.” In Stalin’s “paradise,” however, there is no such thing as murder.
For some reason that’s explained later, Leo has a tense relationship with his wife, who seems afraid of him. Her fear might have a basis in Leo’s anger. For instance, Leo has an angry confrontation with one of his fellow officers, a coward named Vasily, who murders the farming parents of two young girls to “teach them a lesson” because they harbored a fugitive veterinarian under suspicion for treason. Leo is rebuked for striking a fellow officer, and Vasily clearly seethes with resentment toward Leo, who’s gotten a little cocky because of his skills as an investigator, skills that put Vasily and the other officers to shame.
One day, the son of Alexei, one of Leo’s close friends in the MGB, is found dead and naked near some train tracks. Leo’s boss orders him to tell Alexei and Alexei’s wife that the boy was found clothed and was apparently hit by a train. This isn’t true, however. In reality, the boy was murdered by an evil madman.
Reluctantly, Leo gives Alexei and his wife the phony official story, but he asks the medical examiner to perform a full autopsy on the boy. The autopsy reveals that the boy was drowned and a couple of his organs were surgically removed. Leo’s disobedience to order the autopsy attracts the attention of higher ups in the government. After all, murder does not occur in Stalin’s socialist “paradise.”
Shortly after the autopsy, Leo’s boss tells him that they suspect his wife, Raisa, is a traitor. The boss orders Leo to conduct an investigation.
Leo dutifully does so, but of course, Raisa is not a traitor. Also, Raisa has told Leo and his parents that she’s pregnant with Leo’s baby. So, Leo refuses to denounce Raisa, telling his boss that there’s no evidence against Raisa. It becomes clear, however, that Leo’s job is at stake because of his refusal. So, Leo is stripped of his rank in the MGB, and he and his wife are sent to Valsa, a minor outpost in Ukraine, where Leo will be a lowly militia private, and Raise will be the female janitor at the local school instead of a teacher, her real profession.
Shortly on his arrival, Leo and some other soldiers go to the forest, where the naked body of another young boy has been found. Leo notes that the boy’s body is in a similar condition as the other victim, but his declaration upsets the local general in charge, who’s now afraid for his own job.
However, Leo learns from the general that the boy is the second or third such victim found nearby. Eventually, he convinces the general to help him investigate whether there are any more victims of this evil serial killer who’s clearly on the loose. They find there have been 43 such apparent victims so far, with Leo counting his friend, Alexei’s, son Child 44.
Leo’s dedication to find the killer eventually softens his wife Raisa’s attitude toward him. Before that, Raisa confesses to Leo she’s not really pregnant, that she only said she was pregnant because she was afraid he would denounce her if she didn’t. She also tells Leo that, in the beginning, she was even afraid NOT to marry him because of his powerful position in the MGB. Raisa’s confession at first causes more tension between them, but it actually starts to strengthen their marriage, especially when she agrees to go with him on trips to interrogate a possible eyewitness and to the city that seems to be the killer’s hometown.
To conduct his investigation, however, Leo and Raisa have to go undercover to avoid the authorities, especially Leo’s rival, Vasily, who’s taken over Leo’s position as lead investigator for the MGB. The investigation becomes a life and death struggle when Vasily tries to kill them both.
The dense plot of the novel on which it’s based keeps CHILD 44 from being the brilliant movie it could have been. The movie’s script tries to do too much, so the movie doesn’t begin to take off until the protagonist’s investigation into the child murders starts gaining steam. Thus, there are actually three prologues to the main story. These prologues mostly serve as background to the hero’s character. The first one is the discovery of Leo as an orphan caught up in Stalin’s murderous 1929-33 purge of the farmers and peasants in Ukraine who opposed the leftist dictator’s collectivist plans or who simply didn’t fit in with those plans, or who gave even the slightest resistance. The second is the siege of the Reichstag in 1945, which ends with Leo becoming a national hero because he was ordered to pose with a flag. The third prologue is the scenes of Leo, Vasily and the other MGB officers tracking down a suspected traitor, which ends with Vasily brutally murdering a farmer and his wife who harbored the traitor, to “teach them a lesson.” Then, of course, there’s the subplot of Leo’s strained relationship with his wife and the attempt to get him to denounce her.
That said, CHILD 44 does clearly reveal the evil nature of Stalin’s communist, socialist, collectivist tyranny. Also, there are moments in the movie of real suspense and tension, especially when the hero’s rival tries to eliminate the hero and his wife. The performances in CHILD 44 are also quite good, despite the meandering, complicated plot.
CHILD 44 has a strong moral, anti-communist worldview. It’s not a Christian, conservative critique, however. So, it doesn’t have the real power that it should have had. Also, the movie has some gratuitous, unnecessary “f” words, a couple GD profanities, and some extreme violence, especially when Vasily kills the two farmers, when Vasily has some thugs on a train try to murder Leo and Raisa, and when Leo finally catches up with the killer, only to have Vasily enter the scene trying to finish off Leo and his wife. The fighting in the last two sequences is particularly intense and sometimes even brutal. Finally, there’s a partially depicted sex scene between Leo and Raisa early in the movie.
All in all, therefore, MOVIEGUIDE® commends CHILD 44 for trying to expose the tyranny that was Communist Russia, but advises extreme caution. Sadly also, because of the sometimes slow-moving plot, most moviegoers will avoid CHILD 44. Consequently, this review is one of the few places in today’s world where you can find any mention of the evils that occurred under Joseph Stalin and the socialist communists in Russia and the Soviet Union. The history of this tyranny doesn’t just expose the evils of communism. It also exposes the evils of big government everywhere. For example, during Stalin’s tyrannical move to forcibly collectivize the “soviet socialist republics” in and around Russia, his minions didn’t just oppress, imprison or murder rich farmers or rich peasants. They also targeted ANYONE who had even a minimum amount of property (such as a few cows or livestock), who hired even a few people, who owned a machine with a mechanical motor, who lended money, who rented equipment or facilities, or who were involved in even simple trade such as selling a few surplus goods or grain to others. In addition, because Stalin’s minions were taking away almost any privately-owned cows or livestock, many farmers (including those who had the misfortune of having large families) began killing their cows and livestock just so the government couldn’t take them. This just increased the famine and death that spread throughout Ukraine.
Why is knowing this history important for us today?
Because the powerful leftist elites in America are engaging in the same kind of socialist schemes in the financial, energy, manufacturing, agricultural, and healthcare industries as Stalin and his socialist, leftist minions. So, God help anyone, even a lowly baker or florist, who publicly opposes their radical socialist, leftist schemes, for they are then demonized and vilified as well as threatened with boycotts, hefty fines and even imprisonment. Like the evil communist and socialist tyrants in CHILD 44, these same leftists are even re-defining the nature of crime, such as broadening the definition of rape to include such things as an unwanted kiss, or broadening the definition of bigotry by including the refusal to bake a wedding cake, or eliminating pedophilia as a crime punishable by imprisonment by re-defining it as a disease.
(BB, ACAC, Ho, LL, VVV, SS, N, A, D, M) Strong moral worldview in a story of an investigator in 1953 overcoming the socialist, communist, collectivist tyranny of the Soviet Union to bring a child murderer to justice, plus light references to homosexuality as homosexual man finds body of murdered young boy and reports it but authorities arrest homosexuals in wake of child murders, and man later commits suicide because Stalin’s socialist government is opposed to homosexuality (Stalin re-criminalized homosexuality in 1933); 18 obscenities (mostly “f” words, some “s” words) and two GD profanities; some strong and extreme violence includes people shot point blank in head, brutal fight between men and hero and his wife, people stabbed, hero strangles informant to death, brutal fight between villain and man and his wife, woman beats villain with tree limb, villain punches and hits woman in face a couple times, naked bodies of young boys found murdered but nothing salacious or extremely gruesome shown there; partially depicted intercourse between hero and wife with just his bare back shown, plus light references to homosexuality; upper male nudity; alcohol use; smoking; and, lying, socialist government hides murder crimes and tries to do same with a series of 44 child murders, people inform on other people, cowardice, jealousy, betrayal, but mostly rebuked one way or another.
CHILD 44 is a hard-edged, violent adult thriller about a security officer in 1953’s communist Soviet Russia fighting his country’s socialist bosses to solve a series of child murders. Tom Hardy plays Leo Demidov, the soviet security organization’s best investigator. There is no such thing as murder in Stalin’s socialist “paradise,” but Leo orders an autopsy for the naked corpse of a young boy who’s found dead near some train tracks. The autopsy reveals the boy was clearly murdered. Eventually, Leo discovers 43 other young bodies have been found the same way, sometimes left in the woods. Leo’s efforts to find the murderer lead to a life and death struggle with Stalin’s goons and Leo’s rival.
CHILD 44 has an important story to tell about the historical socialist tyranny of the Left. Also, it has some incredibly intense, suspenseful moments with some powerful acting. However, the plot is too convoluted, especially when it delves into Leo’s past before getting into the main story. CHILD 44 also has some extreme violence, unnecessary “f” words and a brief bedroom scene. So, MOVIEGUIDE® advises extreme caution.