It seems that Tom Hardy can do no wrong. Hardy’s Russian accent in this USSR-based film is near-flawless and most of the cast keep up with him too. Though I would have preferred this film be filmed entirely in Russian rather than English, it works as most of the cast don’t falter with their accents, meaning the film feels authentic despite the English dialogue. What irritated me a little though was that Hardy spoke entirely in English, except for half the time he said yes, where he sometimes says ‘da’, obviously Russian for yes. Its a minor gripe I know, but I did find it a little distracting. Other than this though the film succeeds in sucking you into Stalin-era Russia.
While the plot jumps ahead at times leaving the viewer guessing, for the most part this is a great movie that unfortunately draws many parallels with the way terrorism and especially whistle-blowers are handled in the US, despite the fact this is based for the most part in 1950’s Russia. Communism of course rules the land, traitors are sentenced without trial and seemingly without evidence, while the slogan “there is no murder in paradise” is uttered by many of the senior officers working for the fictional Russian agency, the ‘MGB’, which is a phrase that I can’t define as anything else but creepy. The behaviour of all the men in the MGB is also extremely engaging and really pulls the viewer further into 1950’s USSR, despite the fact that this is a fictional agency within a fictional story. The MGB, in addition to routinely accusing citizens of being traitors or spies, is a scary place to be even for those within the agency. Tom Hardy’s character, Leo Demidov, finds this out shortly into the movie, as his moral compass isn’t one that agrees with his superiors and his curiosity leads to his wife being accused of a traitor. Being a good man, Leo refuses to denounce his wife as a traitor to the Motherland and is promptly shipped off to a remote post, a ‘significant demotion’ he is told by General Mikhail Nesterov, played by Gary Oldman, who is Leo’s new superior at his new station.
As this is happening, a series of children are being found, all killed in similar fashion, which was what Leo showed just a small amount of curiosity in, to which he was bluntly told “There is no murder in paradise”, despite the increasing amount of children being found. At his new station, Leo is able to convince General Nesterov, who begrudgingly listens to Leo’s theory that something is amiss, and at great personal risk to both of their lives, they plan to find out what is actually happening.
The atmosphere is appropriately filled with dread, though apart from this excellently realised Russian setting, there is not much else to separate this film from any number of other films based on serial killers. There are moments of tension throughout though they are brief, and the film can at times feel predictable. But that overwhelming feeling of doom that hangs over the entire film is a good reason to to watch this film.
A stunning performance yet again from Hardy, though this doesn’t save the film from being only slightly above average – certainly worth a watch for the portrayal of communist Russia, but there is not much more not after that.
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