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Changeling

Angelina Jolie in a scene from Changeling.

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 5 out of 5

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Partners In Crime: Clint Eastwood and Angelina Jolie (13 mins 35 secs); The Common Thread: Angelina Jolie Becomes Christine Collins (5 mins).

CLINT Eastwood has mastered the art of creating the sombre masterpiece. His best work as a director – from Unforgiven through Mystic River and including Million Dollar Baby – is rooted in sorrow and moral complexity.

Changeling, his latest that’s based on a remarkable true story, repeats the trick to equally impressive effect, unfolding on a scale that’s both epic and intimate… inspiring and yet heartbreakingly sad.

On March 10, 1928, single mother Christine Collins (Angelina Jolie) returns home from work to find that her son, Walter, is missing. Months later, the LAPD – led by Captain JJ Jones (Jeffrey Donovan) – “find” her son and return him to her.

But Collins does not believe the child is Walter and points this out, only to find herself institutionalised to spare the LAPD any more embarrassment. As Christine attempts to fight the system with the help of a prominent Reverend (John Malkovich) a new lead to Walter’s whereabouts is found…

Eastwood’s film functions on many levels and excels at every one. First and foremost, it’s the tale of a mother’s struggle and of an individual’s ability to triumph against overwhelming odds and never give up hope.

Christine Collins refused to be beaten by the system and her struggle eventually brought down an administration and orchestrated a change in the law. Angelina Jolie invests her with a near-perfect blend of elegance and defiance, deftly balancing the distress of her plight as both mother and victim with a growing sense of determination. She deserves an Oscar nomination at the very least.

But Eastwood also takes the film to some unexpected places, exploring both political corruption and mass murder along the way. In doing so, his film is as probing and hard-hitting as it is sensitive and unbearably poignant.

His attention to period detail is another plus, as are the performances of a uniformly excellent support cast, from Donovan’s slimy police captain to Michael Kelly’s inquisitive detective whose perseverence eventually takes the story into still darker territory.

Eastwood has described Changeling as a companion piece to his Oscar-winning Mystic River and it’s true that many of the themes are very similar. Both films offer powerful, though-provoking cinema – even though Changeling‘s tale is arguably more chilling because of its basis in truth.

It’s a must-see movie that merely confirms Eastwood’s reputation as one of the modern greats.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 141mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: March 30, 2009