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The Weekend Australian - Review - - Film Reviews - Michael Bodey Twit­ter: @michael­bodey

We’re in the midst of a World War II-themed film wave. With­out mean­ing to be glib, that era will con­tinue to fuel cin­ema nar­ra­tives for the ob­vi­ous rea­sons: mul­ti­ple sto­ries of vary­ing lev­els of ac­tion, drama, re­demp­tion and credulity.

Last week’s re­lease A Royal Night Out drama­tised a joy­ous al­beit mi­nor mo­ment; next week’s re­lease, Woman in Gold, of­fers a dra­matic and re­demp­tive tale about art repa­tri­a­tion.

One thing is ap­par­ent though; we’re in a pe­riod in which film, or au­di­ences, aren’t will­ing to look back with hu­mour or light­ness. The Pro­duc­ers’ Spring­time for Hitler feels a long time ago, even if one of the bet­ter comic nov­els of re­cent years has been Timur Ver­mes’s in­cen­di­ary reimag­in­ing of Hitler re­vived in mod­ern times, Look Who’s Back. (The Ger­mans at least can now look back in hu­mour.) Last year, The Mon­u­ments Men tried to em­u­late the Boy’s Own ad­ven­ture ap­proach to World War II es­capades but couldn’t main­tain its tone.

So we have a film like Child 44 (MA15+, eOne, 139 min, $39.99) which is a throw­back to a pe­riod when we were happy to sit through films re­mind­ing us just how hor­rid the whole en­ter­prise — and its af­ter­math — was. This adap­ta­tion of Tom Rob Smith’s hit novel will at­tract many view­ers if only be­cause it has a cast led by Tom Hardy, Noomi Ra­pace and Gary Old­man and also fea­tur­ing Vin­cent Cas­sel, Jason Clarke and Paddy Con­si­dine.

This is a cri­sis of con­science film that be­gins with a scene-set­ter in the Ukrainian famine of 1933, sweeps briskly through the Red Army’s lib­er­a­tion of Ber­lin and then on to 1953, when the “hero” of the pre­vi­ous scenes, Hardy’s Leo (who is cho­sen as the soldier wav­ing the Soviet flag atop the Re­ich­stag in 1945, no less) is a revered se­nior mem­ber of Stalin’s se­cret po­lice force.

This is where the plot frac­tures as Leo is ex­iled to a re­gional post­ing af­ter re­fus­ing to de­nounce his wife (Ra­pace) in this era of sur­veil­lance, mis­trust, dis­grace and bru­tal­ity.

Leo is shown to have a con­science, of sorts, which fu­els his neme­sis, Vasili (Joel Kin­na­man). Mean­while, Leo is also on the trail of a se­rial killer of lit­tle boys, which adds to a cou­ple of pre­vi­ous grim scenes but also seems to be where screen­writer, and New York crime leg­end, Richard Price, and di­rec­tor Daniel Espinosa ( Safe House) seem most com­fort­able.

Over­all, it is a dour, over­long yet in­volv­ing film, el­e­vated by Oliver Wood’s cin­e­matog­ra­phy and some af­fect­ing scenes be­tween Ra­pace and Hardy. Hardy has lost a lit­tle of his lus­tre in re­cent films as he’s lurched be­tween un­in­tel­li­gi­ble ( The Dark Knight Rises), min­i­mal ( Mad Max: Fury Road) or mad­den­ing ( The Drop) ac­cents. He’s back into some­thing re­sem­bling cred­i­bil­ity in the com­ing biopic about the Kray twins, Leg­end, but here in Child 44, Old­man and Cas­sel in par­tic­u­lar ac­cent him off the bat­tle­field.

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