The Movie to See This Week: ‘Child 44’

Several new movies are due to premiere this weekend. If you can’t decide which option to check out first, here are our top three staff picks for what to catch in theaters.

1. Child 44

This week’s top pick is Child 44, based on Tom Rob Smith’s 2008 novel of the same name. Directed by Daniel Espinosa, the film is set in 1953 Soviet Russia, during the period of Stalin’s rule. It stars Tom Hardy as the secret police agent Leo Demidov, who loses his status, power, and home when he refuses to denounce his wife, Raisa (Noomi Rapace), as a traitor. After getting exiled from Moscow, Leo and Raisa decide to join forces with General Mihail Nesterov (Gary Oldman) to track down a brutal serial killer who preys on children. Their mission threatens to expose a systemwide cover-up enforced by Leo’s rival (Joel Kinnaman), who insists, “There is no crime in Paradise.”

The film — which has proven to be controversial, with Russia banning the movie from theaters for allegedly “distorting historical facts” — has earned mixed reviews, with critics calling out its sometimes long, muddled narrative. As The Hollywood Reporter put it, “The movie doesn’t really captivate the way it should, and as the manhunt stretches on it actually diminishes in suspense, ultimately overstaying its two-plus-hour running time.” Still, much of the cast has earned praise for strong performances. The movie should especially appeal to fans of the always compelling Hardy. As Time describes of the actor’s performance, “We can’t really fault Hardy, the one-time Bane and future Mad Max; he makes for a complex, quietly stalwart hero, whatever his cockamolotov accent.” Child 44 is set for release on April 17.

2. 1915

Our second choice is the upcoming psychological thriller film 1915, co-written and directed by Garin Hovannisian and Alec Mouhibian. The movie takes place in present-day Los Angeles exactly a century after the Armenian genocide committed in Ottoman Turkey. It follows a mysterious director named Simon (Simon Abkarian) as he stages a play at the Los Angeles Theatre in order to honor the victims of the tragedy. The controversial nature of the production draws protestors, who end up surrounding the theater. When a series of mysterious accidents spreads panic among his actors and producers, it’s clear that Simon’s mission is profoundly dangerous, and that the ghosts of the past are everywhere.

1915 marks the first feature film by Hovannisian and Mouhibian, although the two have been collaborating on various film and literary projects for more than a decade. The film is available in limited release on April 17.

3. Tangerines

Coming in at No. 3 is Tangerines, the war drama written and directed by Zaza Urushadze. Set in 1992, during the growing conflict between Georgia and Abkhazian separatists in the wake of the Soviet Union’s dissolution, the film focuses on two Estonian immigrant farmers who decide to remain in Georgia long enough to harvest their tangerine crop. When one of them takes in two wounded soldiers from opposite sides, the fighters vow to kill each other as soon as they recover. But their recovery time together ends up having a humanizing effect that may surpass ethic divides. Lembit Ulfsak, Giorgi Nakashidze, Elmo Nuganen, and Mikheil Meshki co-star in the movie.

The film has earned critical praise, garnering both a Golden Globe and an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film earlier this year. “Although the subject of civil war within the former Soviet countries has been tackled in other movies, this retelling is one of the most concise and affecting,” The Hollywood Reporter wrote of the movie. Ulfsak’s performance has also garnered particular praise. As Variety described, “With nearly five-decade screen veteran Ulfsak setting the wry, soulful tenor, Tangerines balances humor and seriousness in deft fashion.” The drama’s limited release begins on April 17.

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