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Blu-ray Review Child 44 Blu-ray Review

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Matt Hough, Jul 29, 2015.

  1. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Director
    Reviewer

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    XenForo Template Child 44 Blu-ray Review

    One of the most frighteningly realistic depictions of post-war Stalinist Russia ever portrayed on film, Daniel Espinosa’s Child 44 combines a serial killer storyline with a political thriller scenario where the hunter also becomes the hunted. It’s a convoluted business, and the screenplay and direction sometimes get mired in their own complexity, but it remains a gripping film with some excellent performances amid the harrowing atmosphere amazingly set up by the production design team working under a most talented director.


    Cover Art


    Studio: Lionsgate

    Distributed By: N/A

    Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC

    Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

    Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, Spanish 5.1 DD

    Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish

    Rating: R

    Run Time: 2 Hr. 17 Min.

    Package Includes: Blu-ray, UltraViolet

    keep case in a slipcover

    Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)

    Region: A

    Release Date: 08/04/2015

    MSRP: $24.99




    The Production Rating: 3.5/5

    World War II hero and now military secret police bigshot Leo Demidov (Tom Hardy) is asked by his best friend Alexei Andreyev (Fares Fares) to investigate the mysterious death of his young son who authorities are claiming died accidentally but who Alexei insists was murdered, a crime under the Soviet regime that is restricted strictly to the West. Before Leo can get a foothold in an investigation, however, he finds himself demoted in rank and banished to menial work in Volsk due to whispers about his wife Raisa (Noomi Rapace) being a spy. As the deaths of young children aged 9-15 continue to mount, Leo begs his commanding officer (Gary Oldman) to help him look into the matter, but orders come down from Major Kuzmin (Vincent Cassel) to Leo’s political rival (and replacement) Vasili (Joel Kinnaman) to prevent further investigation into the matter to help the state save face, so Leo and his wife find themselves being hunted while they themselves hunt for the serial killer.

     

    Paranoia and fear are the order of the day in Richard Price’s screenplay based on the novel by Tom Rob Smith. This was the era where one’s whispers about a neighbor could result in their being grabbed off the street, thrust into a car, and never seen again and where being loyal to one’s spouse could result in death for them both even when only one was the guilty party. This feeling of tension and apprehension is made palpable throughout through the intimidation, threats, and even blackmail exerted by those in power to bring others down who threaten their own zealously guarded well-being. Director Daniel Espinosa handles all of this quite masterfully though he does slip up from time to time with establishing motivations for attacks (an ambush in a boxcar isn’t well established) and not fully mapping out the road to the discovery of the identity of the serial killer. That subplot doesn’t actually turn out to be the more important of the two running narratives, and the script and director don’t squeeze much tension out of identifying the man who’s the guilty party (after a couple of partially-hidden abductions, the camera simply tilts up to show us who it is, so there’s really no mystery involved here). Much more time is spent watching the evil Vasili do everything in his power to claim everything that Leo once prized: his rank, his lavish (by Soviet standards) apartment, and even his wife on whom he has designs. It all leads, of course, to a climactic confrontation between protagonist and antagonist reducing the film’s earlier complexities to a rather simplistic good versus evil final fight. The film’s coda also wraps things up a bit too neatly, odd since Leo had gotten confessions from Raisa Demidov earlier that by film’s end seem to have been completely forgiven and forgotten.

     

    Tom Hardy is giving the film his all as Leo Demidov, believable as a tough man of action but also not a superman (who is getting bested in a couple of fights during the film until he receives help from others). As do all of the European actors in the cast, he produces a Russian accent that is almost completely consistent and aids in the illusion of this being 1953 Russia. Noomi Rapace’s enigmatic Raisa is a complex characterization for much of the film which makes her resulting soft-spoken persona a bit of a puzzler at the end. Joel Kinnaman and Vincent Cassel are both one-note villains but unquestionably riveting ones to watch while Fares Fares and Agnieszka Grochowska make completely believable grieving parents whose loss instigates Leo’s investigation. Despite second billing, Gary Oldman as General Mikhail Nesterov is fairly wasted in a small role. Paddy Considine who is eventually revealed as the killer suggests mental disorders which aren’t delved in fully during the movie.



    Video Rating: 4/5  3D Rating: NA

    Shot on film, the movie’s 2.40:1 theatrical aspect ratio is faithfully reproduced in this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Sharpness is usually very good, but there are occasional soft scenes which seem a bit arbitrary. Color has been desaturated a bit to suggest an earlier, more oppressive era, and it certainly works to sustain the repressive mood of the piece. Flesh tones likewise appear pale but not unpleasant. Black levels are often a bit milky but can on occasion look rich and reasonably deep. The film has been divided into 16 chapters.



    Audio Rating: 4.5/5

    The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix begins with a bang with superb split atmospheric effects during the wartime scenes and later using the surround channels a bit more sparsely but no less effectively as the story progresses. Jon Ekstrand’s music gets a nice spread through the front and rear soundstages. Dialogue has been nicely recorded and has been placed in the center channel.



    Special Features Rating: 2/5

    Reflections of History (8:18, HD): a brief featurette featuring members of the production team including costume designer Jenny Beavan, original novelist Tom Rob Smith, and the film’s props coordinator and graphic designer along with stars Joel Kinnaman and Gary Oldman praising the realism of the sets, costumes, and locations. They also speak gallant words of praise for director Daniel Espinosa though he himself is shown working but is not interviewed.

     

    Theatrical Trailer (2:16, HD)

     

    Promo Trailers (HD): American Heist, A Most Wanted Man, Locke, Warrior.

     

    Ultraviolet: code sheet enclosed in the case.



    Overall Rating: 3.5/5

    While there are some occasional lapses in the narrative lines of the film, the atmosphere is so gripping and the direction so right that Child 44 emerges as an interesting and entertaining thriller. The Blu-ray offers a fine accounting of the film’s theatrical look and sound.


    Reviewed By: Matt Hough


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  2. davidHartzog

    davidHartzog Cinematographer

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    I saw this at the theatre and thought it an excellent thriller, extremely faithful to the fine novel. Well-acted and compelling, already downloaded a copy to my Samsung.
     

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