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Child 44 by Jon Ekstrand (Review)

posted Apr 15, 2015, 4:10 PM by Kaya Savas

Child 44 is based of the first of a trilogy of Soviet-era novels from author Tom Rob Smith. Child 44 is a drama/mystery about a pro-Stalin officer who loses his status and credibility when he suggest a serial murderer is killing children. By suggesting murder in the Soviet Union, it would show a weakness in the regime and discredit the police force. So our protagonist takes it upon himself to find the culprit when he is stripped of his official status. Swedish composer Jon Ekstrand reunites with his Easy Money director Daniel Espinosa on Child 44. The result is a somber yet absorbing score that does an admirable job of pulling the listener into the narrative.

The score starts off somber and soft as it builds this portrait of Soviet Russia. It does a great job of setting the premise up and sending us on our way. The music focuses a lot on establishing mood and atmosphere by using deep heavy strings and piano. As we twirl deeper down the rabbit hole and get tangled up in the mystery, the music is not afraid to bring aggression. There are bursts of rage that poke through the fabric of the score, and it adds this effective gravitas to it. There are a handful or propulsive action tracks that bring the adrenaline level up as well. These moments sort of juxtapose with the structure of the rest of the score, and upon re-listening to them it feels like they lay it on a bit too heavy than what is needed. The music does devolve a bit into a "trace the path of the plot" type of feel. At times you feel like a pencil is dragging a line through a maze, and every unseen twist and turn is scored as such. But the overall mood and atmosphere keep the score afloat. In the end we have a drama/mystery that is successful in the world it built sonically, but holds our hands a little too much throughout.

Child 44 is a decent scoring attempt from Jon Ekstrand. It never shies away from being aggressive when needed, and does a wonderful job at crafting the atmosphere of the film. Character and emotional resonance are a bit distant due to melodic material that doesn’t stick too well. And the music at times feels like it’s tracing the outline of the plot on a sheet of paper, which ends up having moments that feel rigid. But as a whole it’s a score that feels alive, and the music will immerse you for this twisty fictional Soviet-era mystery.