A great cast, an interesting story and an intriguing setting should make for a good film. So how can it end up so ordinary?
I don’t hate this as much as some, but it needed a big pair of scissors taking to it. It’s too long (the first 15 minutes could easily have been done away with), there was a lot of jumping location with people constantly getting on and off trains, and altogether too many strands which ended up being confusing.
There is something thought-provoking about the themes of trust and choice in this Stalin Soviet Republic, but it’s buried too deep to be meaningful.
Before I saw the film I was also worried about the cast using Russian accents throughout. On a creative level, there was no need to do this – it’s set in Russia, we know, but just get all of the cast to speak English and let the set and costumes do the rest of the work. But the cast includes a number of actors for whom English is not their native language, and by casting these actors in key roles (Noomi Rapace, Vincent Cassel, Fares Fares, Nikolaj Lie Kaas), then to be practical, adopting a Russian accent covers everything. While I understand it, I still didn’t like it.
It’s grim, dark and dirty, all appropriate for the time frame, but lacks precision in execution.
What I really want now though is for BBC4 to commission a Saturday evening 90 minute procedural with Tom Hardy and Gary Oldman heading up the Moscow Homicide Division. THAT would be worth watching.