No Murder In Paradise
Stars: Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman, Vincent Cassel, Jason Clarke, Josef Aitin, Fares Fares and Charles Dance
Director: Daniel Espinosa
Scriptwriter: Richard Price based on the novel “Child 44” by Tom Rob Smith
Composer: Jon Ekstrand
Cinematographer: Philippe Rousselat
Summit Entertainment/Scott Free Productions/Lionsgate
Rating: R for violence and themed material
Running Length: 138 minutes
This is Russia in the mid-1950’s, after WWII and in the Stalin regime. No one is safe, everyone is suspect of something, it is easier to die than to live, corruption everywhere, living quarters for the people are below poverty level and there are many ranks of government to keep order. In one of them, the MGB, exists Agent Leo Demidov (Tom Hardy from the upcoming “Mad Max” film). Leo isn't even his real name, he was a runaway and soldiers gave him a name. Later, as a soldier, he raised a flag during a WWII victory and got his photo in the Russian newspapers. The term "war hero" begins to follow him. This is a society in which, even if a person could fade into the woodwork, the woodwork would turn them in as a spy. Stalin wants to create the perfect society and there would be no crime, thus the slogan “No Murder In Paradise.” We see otherwise.
Cinematographer Philippe Rousselat must have had a limited budget for lighting, as a great part of the film looks as though it were in a coal mine. One wonders if people didn't have bruises from bumping into each other. So we know right away, that this is a darkened society, both from lack of lighting to darkened spirits from oppression.
As the story goes, Leo and wife, Raisa (Noomi Rapace) are separated. She is a teacher and he a government agent. Leo is brutal when he has to be, but that doesn't go as far as women and children, so when there is an incident of his kindness and another soldier’s brutality (Vasili played by Joel Kinnaman), memories can be long, indeed. The death of the son of another Agent is thought to be a train accident, but the autopsy (hushed up) shows the opposite, something akin to Jack the Ripper’s style. Leo can't let go of the case, and this leads to problems within his government group, as no one wants Stalin’s light to shine on them, so Leo and Raisa (with problems of her own) are sent to a distant town to work. The transfer no one wants. While there, more deaths of children and Leo senses a pattern, secrets, and who to trust? Enter Gary Oldman as General Nesterov, the leader there, who begins to worry when the friend of one of his children dies. The clock is ticking to prevent more killings, find this person and keep looking over their backs as Vasili of the long grudge, it looking Leo‘s way. How to work when so far from Moscow? The last part of the movie shows how you how this can be done and keeping in the shadows away from prying eyes is definitely not clean work.
Tom Hardy, with his brooding looks and hesitant speech, takes on the role of the Agent with a heart, and goes with it, except for a straying accent. Because of his past and breaks he was given, he can be kind when necessary, and tough at other times. What isn't clear, though, is his relationship with his wife, played stoically by Noomi Repace. She is a beautiful woman in a world of men who get what they want, and has to stand her ground, but with her husband? And where did she learn to fight? Joel Kinnaman’s Vasili is a study in Janus---the two-faced god, what you see isn't always what you get. Gary Oldman’s General is a man who survives at the outpost of nowhere by staying away from controversy, but then…. The rest of the cast does well in their supporting roles as people who are afraid even to breathe, for fear of doing something wrong in this new “Paradise.”
It took me a few minutes to get into this story, not having read the books. Here is Russia under Stalin, when the government was being re-formed and reformed. An example being, when there is a clear case of murder, there is no government agency to handle it in “Paradise.“ References are to life when Russia was fighting Germany and the aftermath of certain situations there--- and the film is in English. There are more books in the series of the MGB Agent and perhaps, on the success of this film, other films will be made. Tom Hardy is a good choice as the lead. Advice: don't play or walk near trains.
Copyright 2015 Marie Asner
For more Tom Hardy film reviews, see the following:
The Dark Knight Rises