Production has just begun on the long-awaited for adaptation of Tom Rob Smith’s debut novel, Child 44. Ridley Scott optioned the rights back in 2008 before the book was published and had plans to direct the next year, but despite the book’s huge success (a national bestseller that’s been published in almost 30 countries) and with a script by Richard Price, the movie never got off the ground. Smith had actually conceived the story as a screenplay before his agent wisely suggested he trying writing it as a novel instead. He’s since written two other books in the series (The Secret Speech and Agent 6), so there’s the potential of a trilogy if the film does well–which I’m sure didn’t hurt its chances of finally getting a green light. Scott is still producing, with Daniel Espinosa (Safe House) on to direct Price’s script.
Set in Stalinist Russia, Child 44 is a thriller about an MGB agent (pre-cursor to the KGB) Leo Demidov, investigating a string of murders in the so-called worker’s paradise–where the only crime that is said to exist is that against the State. When Leo finds himself on the other side of the system he has devoted his life to protecting, he must find the killer to clear his name and save himself and his wife. The Stalin-era has rarely been depicted on the screen (Peter Weir’s 2010 film “The Way Back” may have been the first and last, and it only grazed the surface) and there are only a handful of recent novels about it, so it’s exciting to see some light being shed on this particular time and place in history. Smith’s book can actually be considered a pseudo-political thriller, the terror of the Soviet system being much more frightening than any potential serial killer.
The upside to the delay in filming is that they were able to bring together a stellar cast of rising talents. Tom Hardy is Leo, and he’s a great choice to play the confident and idealistic security officer whose world is turned upside down. If the upcoming Mad Max reboot doesn’t make him a huge star, maybe this will. Noomi Rapace plays his wife Raisa, and Joel Kinnaman is his villainous rival, Vasili. I love Kinnaman’s work on “The Killing” and think he would have also made a great Leo, but it will be fun watching these two well-matched stars go head-to-head.