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Changeling - Review

Angelina Jolie in a scene from Changeling.

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 5 out of 5

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 Release Date: November 26, 2008

  1. I couldn’t agree more. I just saw the movie this afternoon & I thought it was really exceptional. Jolie’s performance is terrific but then so is everybody elses right down to the smallest bit player.

    The way the story addresses themes such as the status of women, the complete corruption of the Los Angeles authorities, the way children & adults see the same event & Christine’s transformation into a reluctant heroine for a population sick of a police force that is as corrupt as the criminals they’re supposed to be chasing, is deeply impressive. Impressive not least because Eastwood has such a gentle, subtle style. His stories creep up on you & before you know it they have you in their grip & you never even noticed. It’s the complete opposite of directors who try to bludgeon you into submission from the first frame to the last & so refreshing to see that the old fashioned methods of storytelling are still understood.

    I really liked Changeling. It’s an outstanding film for adults & judging by the reaction of the audience I saw it with – they felt the same way.

    David    Nov 26    #