(Child 44 , dir. Espinosa, scr. Price)
What a bizarrely dull waste. The successful Child 44 book had three or four things going for it: a stunningly atmospheric opening in a winter of starvation (here rushed over and its relevance weakened), a big reveal (cut), the evolving relationship between Demidov and his wife as they first realize the emptiness of what they thought they had and then build anew (next to Noomi Rapace’s pained wisdom Tom Hardy’s Leo is a nice picture of inarticulate bewildered loyalty, war hero as premiership footballer out of his depth, but it doesn’t go anywhere) and a reasonable cat-and-mouse/chase plot. Trying to squeeze in most of the narrative of the book, but still dropping a couple of significant facts and incidents, the film manages somehow to be both too long and too rushed. The Demidovs hurry back and forth across Russia having unpleasant train incidents, the commuter experience from hell, and then the mystery gets addressed in a couple of brisk and largely unrelated bits of business at the end. Espinosa worthily films most of the book, but loses its sense and its drama. Child 44 has some vivid styling and performances (largely for decoration – Cassel is intimidating because he’s Cassel, nothing more; Oldman has to resort to maximum shouting-and-spitting to get any drama into his scenes; Dance, as so often, is paraded as a token of film gravity), but it’s otherwise as empty and lifeless as its Siberian wilderness.
The Script Hack: if we’re skipping the plot relevance of the starvation opening, we can skip the whole scene; if we’re dropping the key bits of information gained from the mid-story return to Moscow, we can drop that whole sequence; and we could trim some of the secondary scenes (the last, for example, nicely true to the book, could be 30 seconds instead of five minutes). That would create much more time and space to pace and build the mystery and anticipation and drama of the hunt, and the relationships at its heart, and still leave a tighter more powerful film.