Changeling (2008) 

Directed by: Clint Eastwood

Premise: The true story of a woman (Angelia Jolie) whose son disappeared in 1920s Los Angeles. The authorities return a boy to her who is not her son and then intimidate her when she questions the department.

What Works: Changeling is another good effort by Clint Eastwood. The film is tonally and thematically consistent with Mystic River and in parts it reaches the same heights in quality. Like Mystic River the film deals with violence against children and Eastwood finds the right mark with the topic, showing enough to convey the horror of these events without watering it down or exploiting it. The film deals with corruption in city government and it handles the exposition very well, providing the information in ways that are congruent with the narrative, raising the stakes of the story and moving along the plot. Angelia Jolie delivers one of the best performances of her career as Christine Collins, a woman who was battered first by the loss of her son and then by a corrupt system that tried to break her. Jolie conveys both the character’s toughness and her human vulnerability which makes her resilience all the more heroic. It’s a careful characterization that Jolie’s performance and the screenplay bring out very nicely. The other great performance here is Devon Conti as serial killer Arthur Hutchins. Conti is very frightening and in a limited amount of screen time he is able to create a truly monstrous character.

What Doesn’t: Changeling has multiple endings. While this set up and defeat of expectation mirrors the journey of Christine Collins, it is also an exhausting experience for the audience.

DVD extras: None.

Bottom Line: Changeling is a very good film and one of the better entries in Eastwood’s extraordinary string of recent directorial efforts.

 

Episode: #229 (March 1, 2009)