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Movie Review: Changeling
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ChangelingChangeling
Directed by Clint Eastwood
Staring Angelina Jolie, John Malkovich, Jeffrey Donovan, Geoff Pierson
Rated R
Release date: October 31, 2008

Clint Eastwood, the greatest working director today, continues to display reasons why his films have the potential and audacity to gather like a quiet storm and later evolve to form a massive natural disaster. Unlike any director today, Eastwood manages to go beyond the surface of the true story of a woman searching for her lost son in 1928 Los Angeles by digging deep into his subject matter’s heart and finding gold in the unlikeliest of places. Time after time, he manages to show his ability of exploring darker situations and scenarios that aren’t neatly placed on the table at first glance. Watch Million Dollar Baby or Mystic River if you need reference. As Changeling moves towards its climax we experience plot revelations that deal with children being plagued of hatred and corruption at an early age. Slowly the film expands to a full-sized portrait of a town that once produced dreams, to a town that toils with human emotions as a hobby.

Searching for her 9-year-old son Walter is Christine Collins, played fiercely by Angelina Jolie. Jolie’s ability to go through all of what Christine goes through is an act of endurance. Clocking in at 140 minutes, her performance could’ve easily succumbed to melodrama and repetitiveness, but Jolie plays each scene as if it were her last, giving new life and meaning to each of Christine’s soul-searching scenes.

Christine leaves her son Walter home as she goes to work on skates as a supervisor at a telephone company. She returns home later in the day to find Walter missing. She calls the police department who reply that they can’t do anything until morning. Months later, the department ushers in a boy from DeKalb, Ill., telling her that this boy is her son. The department, getting bashed recently by media, needs a feel-good story to rekindle a new image for them. They will pursue this new image at any person’s expense.

Christine knows at first glance it’s not him, but is persuaded by a tarnished soul with a police badge, Capt. J.J. Jones (Jeffrey Donovan in one of the film’s best performances). She’s persuaded eventually by Jones to take the boy for a “trial run” even though he’s 3 inches shorter, isn’t recognized by his school teacher, and doesn’t have the same dental records as Christine’s Walter. Christine, hiding her face underneath that hat of hers, with the help of a radio preacher (John Malkovich), has to prevail and find right. Eastwood and screenwriter J. Michael Straczynski, by staying true to public records (which may be the film’s only flaw as it drags just a bit), follow this woman’s despair as she stands up to the system only to find herself getting institutionalized for stating the facts and staying institutionalized for keeping her word and not giving in. Her ambition opens up a can of worms.

The LAPD is always pinpointed for achieving and carrying out deviant acts. Corruption follows them wherever they go and that corruption soon sets up shop internally, making it almost impossible to rid of it. L.A. Confidential, another film dealing with the corruption of the LAPD, rid its corruption by killing everyone. Changeling though has to deal with their corruption being on a totally different platform. Where Confidential was corrupted with mobsters, money, and drugs, Eastwood wants to channel something more dreaded; corruption that dwells and indulges on human emotions belonging to the weak.

A gun isn’t fired to make matters better. Eastwood, 78, a filmmaker of delicacy, relies on dialogue to resolve problems. This isn’t the spaghetti western, nor is Dirty Harry present in the L.A. area. There’s a powerful courtroom scene that showcases one of the film’s most intense performances by Christine’s lawyer played by Geoff Pierson; he willingly took Christine’s case. He’s one of many L.A. residents who gladly sided with Christine to bring down the law.

Beginning with the 1928 Universal logo, Changeling happens to satirize all of its color, abandoning the upstart energy of a dizzying L.A. so it can issue a bleak clarification of the events that will transpire. Films directed by Eastwood pay strict attention to detail; costumes, setting, and color are all on the same page. These meticulous actions reflect a man who has become a perfectionist in his elder days. More importantly he has the patience to tell a good story.

***1/2

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