By Stuart Campbell
Child 44 is a thriller disguised as a mystery, based upon Tom Smith’s book of the same name. A gruesome tale about the investigation into a child murderer who is roaming the Russian streets of Stalin’s corrupted Soviet Union, it’s a strange and unnerving tale, as at the time the strong Communist regime refused to acknowledge the reality of such heinous crimes. This mentality led the murderer to go uncaptured for some time.
It’s under this dark regime that Jon Ekstrand’s score opens, very simply and foreboding. Its a reflection on the times with an undercurrent of classical music, still and a little enchanting. The score reflects its subject matter well and uses characterisation to its advantage. Tom Hardy and Noomi Rapace’s characters have a nice nuanced theme that binds the score early on and keeps the strong identity of these characters together.
The score opens up as the story progresses. As the investigation gathers speed, Ekstrand pushes the pace and opens up the arsenal of his instruments. Drama and action creeps in and he runs with it, if at times he leaves us hanging a little short with some of his more stronger tracks. ‘Searching for Brodsky’ being a culprit of this.
The dark overtones of the score are ever present and this can wear a bit thin. Its understandable that this is a terrible tale and those involved are tainted and some barely come out of it clean, but a little more levity sprinkled every so often would have made it a little easier to digest. ‘There Is A Witness’ takes the darker route again and relishes taking you deeper into the details of the case, this again is a good and strong indication of where the case is going but independently of the film, it can’t stand on its on without getting too dark and some what repetitive.
There is something about the score however that is massively lacking. The film dramatises a disturbing period in Russian history, the story itself is very Russian so why is there a lack of Russian inspired or even typically indigenous music? As the story comes to its end, the score wraps itself in a reasonably sombre package. There is a light at the end of a very, very dark tunnel but it comes a little late.
Ekstrand has composed a very dark score and never really lets you out from under this oppressive weight. In this instance, he marries it very well with the film and the period on which it is based.
Child 44 is out now from Lakeshore Records