Reel Society

Reviews for the latest movies in theaters and on DVD.

Changeling

 

Review by Patrick Hodges

Imagine if you will a society where the police department, the entity pledged to serve and protect the community, is given permission by the chief of police to “clean up the streets”, to brutalize and murder “offenders” without warrants, trials or paperwork; a system as corrupt as the Mafia and just as ruthless, that brooks no dissension, embarrassment or threat to their power.

Now imagine a mother, coming home from her job at AT&T, where she works as a supervisor of telephone operators, to find her nine-year-old son missing.  Frantically, she informs the police, who, after a four-month nationwide search, bring a boy matching her son’s description home to her.  They absolutely insist that the boy IS her son, despite the fact that he looks different and is four inches shorter.  And despite her protests that they made a mistake, the police consider the case closed.

It is hard to imagine that anyone could be so ludicrously brazen as to say that a hysterical mother is not objective enough to know her own son when she sees him, but that is the premise behind the story of Changeling, the latest directorial effort from Hollywood icon Clint Eastwood, and starring Angelina Jolie as Christine Collins, the aforementioned mother desperately trying to find her missing son, Walter.

Despite the insistence of L.A.P.D. captain J.J. Jones (Jeffrey Donovan) that they found the right boy, Christine continues to protest that a mistake has been made, and that her son is still out there somewhere.  She eventually finds an ally in Rev. Gustav Brieglb (wonderfully played by John Malkovich), a local pastor who also does regular radio broadcasts vilifying the police force, but not long afterward, Capt. Jones has Christine committed to the psychopathic ward at a local mental hospital, since she’s “obviously lost touch with reality”.

While this is going on, a detective named Ybarra (Michael Kelly) follows a lead on another missing-child case, and finds himself involved in a situation almost too ghastly to contemplate.  This situation connects directly to Christine’s missing son, and it was especially good to see that there was one representative of the police force that seemed interested in actually doing his job.

There’s no doubt that Eastwood meant for Changeling to be a story that drives home the point of what happens when any entity, be it a government or something more secular, is given too much power.  As far as the acting went, Jolie does a decent job as Christine Collins.  I have never doubted that she has a fair amount of acting prowess, and I have enjoyed those rare moments when she chooses to showcase it rather than take roles where she is raiding tombs, stealing cars or curving bullets.  However, there are more than a few moments when her character is overwrought, and the tears flow freely, that seem more like a performance than a genuine reaction.  Malkovich, as I said earlier, is terrific, continuing the truism that no matter who he plays, be it a good guy or bad guy, you do not EVER want to be on John Malkovich's bad side.

Some critics have said that Changeling is Oscar-worthy, while others have said the exact opposite.  For myself, it’s still a little early to make that call, given the caliber of films coming out in the next few months, but given what I saw, I would honestly be surprised if Eastwood’s latest outing walked off with Academy gold.  A decent and entertaining picture, yes, but nowhere near the caliber of previous efforts like Unforgiven or Million Dollar Baby.

3 / 5 stars
 

Comments (0):

  • No comments found.
Post a New Comment
Your Name:
Your Email:
Comment: