Rated: R for violence, some disturbing images, language and a scene of sexuality. Reviewed by: Frank Release date: April 17, 2015 Released by: Summit Entertainment
Set in the dark period, a throwback to the early fifties filled with militant cohesive police actions of Stalin's Russia. Director Daniel Espinosa establishes sets which are gritty, damp, filled with deteriorate apartments, streets and cities showing the atmosphere in which 44 children are killed and no one is willing to admit a crime has occurred.
Nearly every scene is set in cold and colorless locations often near railroad tracks in cities and only for short periods of times in wooded dark forests. The child factor is under investigation by Leo Demidov (Tom Hardy) who doesn't believe in the slogan "there is no crime in paradise" (it refers to the worker's paradise under Communism). The children are all young boys (probably orphans) who are found without clothes near railroad tracks and are officially ruled to have been killed accidentally. The official lime was expected to be followed by everyone, it ignored that the children were found without clothing.
Tom Hardy gives a Brando style of performance and Noomi Rapace is as good as she was in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. They are joined by Gary Oldman who can easily convince us he is a serious militant communist officer.
The films begins with a child in an orphanage after World War II and a statement that Stalin caused the death of 25,000 Ukrainians that created a large orphan population. Next we see the siege of Berlin with Demidov raising the Russian flag over the city and then an opulent evening at the opera with dinner in a gold filled room. The scenes establish Demidov's background and his present acceptance as a trusted officer.
The crushing control of the Stalin police which Demidov is part of forces folks to name criminals who are then put to death, under the fear that not naming someone will result in death to the one that does not provide names and his family. We witness parents shot in the head in front of two little girls because they sheltered a fugitive. That ugly scene will only be resolved at the film's climax.
Not willing to whitewash the killings Demidov is transferred to a minor location with his wife Raisa (Rapace) and then he is charged with with determining if she is a spy and he falls he is in a catch 22. If he finds evidence she will be killed if not he may be killed. That atmosphere in the society is crippling to the population. The danger hangs over the entire script and it forces us to fear the danger each character must face.
Demidov is an honest cop, not brilliant but he knows enough that the killer of the 44 must be caught and destroyed. He calculates the locations and matches riders on certain routes to determine who is the probable killer. While he works at solving the crime his wife has the opportunity to leave him and take up with another who has always shown interest in her. It is made clear that her decision might result in her relatives living or not. The dark cloud hangs one the entire story but we are drawn into the devastating life which is nearly hopeless for folks in that world.
As the film climaxes many of the old friendships and past actions fall together and in the last scenes there is one small ray of light which gives hope to the next generation and perhaps makes the dangerous actions in the film worth the effort.