Saturday, 18 April 2015

REVIEW - CHILD 44 (DANIEL ESPINOSA)


The signs are all there, that the intention was not to posit Child 44 as just another dark, gloomy Hollywood thriller (as it has been marketed), but instead as a perceptive, pertinent historical drama, commanding in its breadth and disarming in its depth. So why can't we see it? Why does one come to this realisation, to the truth of the matter, only after the film has finished? Dear, naive director Daniel Espinosa must be held accountable, ditto writer Richard Price, who has done better work for better films. Throw in cinematographer Oliver Wood on charge of banality and you've got a compelling body of evidence. They're only under the notion that what they're creating is a grand, epic work - their techniques suggest a collective ignorance in how actually to create such a film. Principally, their insistence on Tom Rob Smith's narrative blueprint as a classically cinematic one is wholly misplaced - Smith's narrative is highly involving, but too ambitiously structured to feel sufficiently coherent if its psychological and political complexities are not probed. Yet Espinosa leaves it all on the screen, neither trimming down the content that demands a more sophisticated approach nor indulging it with the intelligence it deserves. His means don't fit his end, in that treating a story this expansive, this deliciously convoluted as a run-of-the-mill thriller (as he appears able only to do) won't afford it the gravity he's aiming for. Amid this mess, poor Tom Hardy is stranded in a film that has little idea what to do with his talent. What a fearsome performance Hardy supplies, yet again, and what a lacklustre film he supplies it to. He's there for those signs that Child 44 ought to have been a more momentous affair, in the meandering storyline and the relaxed plotting. Would that anybody else was. Acquittals for editors Pietro Scalia and Dylan Tichenor, production designer Jan Roelfs and also for Noomi Rapace, but only just.