Changeling (2008)

Drama, History, Mystery, Thriller
Angelina Jolie, Colm Feore, Amy Ryan, Gattlin Griffith
A grief-stricken mother takes on the LAPD to her own detriment when it stubbornly tries to pass off an obvious impostor as her missing child, while also refusing to give up hope that she will find him one day.
Beautifully shot and well-acted, Changeling is a compelling story that unfortunately gives in to convention too often.
  • Universal Pictures Company:
  • R Rated:
  • IMDB link IMDB:
  • 31 Oct 2008 Released:
  • 17 Feb 2009 DVD Release:
  • $35.7M Box office:

All subtitles:

Trailer:

Eastwood and Angeline deliver a strong punch10/10
There is nothing more reliable than Eastwood behind the camera, with his assured touch his films are never boring or deliberately confusing, hiding technical devices or special effects that detract from the most important part of movie making: a good screenplay, a good story, good acting. For the past 10 years, many films have been unduly praised because they have one or two great performances, unfairly leaving many good and deserving movies without the recognition they deserved. Eastwood has however, given us the whole package time after time, with movies as varied as "Mystic River", "Letters", "Million Dollar Baby" and now "Changeling". True, there is a link, they are all strong films, with themes that deal with pain and loss, but the stories are different, the settings require an amazing attention to detail, what they all share is a strong focus, and interestingly enough, superb performances.

Eastwood has paved the way to acting honors for Penn, Freeman, Swank, Hackman, and others that were continuously ignored by the Academy. There is no denying the power of their performances in Eastwood's movies, and that leads to the center of this film: Jolie. I read recently that her performance has been attacked as being affected and the attempt of a star to look normal. Putting aside those silly and biased remarks, let's state something clearly, the lady has given us a fantastic tour de force, proving that she can be both a star when looking at the other cameras, but that when she is working for a director, she gives her best, regardless of what our perception of her private life might be. If you are a critic with a personal disapproval of that persona, keep it to yourself, concentrate on the film and the work of the performer.

As the mother who desperately wants the truth about her child, Angelina is flawless. We can read the pain in her eyes, the determination and the disturbing reality that her obsession might be having unexpected results, but one thing is clear, there is a drive that won't quit, and it's admirable for those of us who want her to be reunited with her child, and it's quite inconvenient for the people who have other interests at hand.

Her battle with the folks at LAPD is of epic proportions, and it is amazing that she held on to her goal of exposing the corruption that she encountered as she searched for her missing boy. There are some horrific moments in the film, as we relieve some of the injustices and Gothic horror of places like the hospital in this film. There are also some background scene that might or not reveal what really happen. There are moments when one is a bit exhausted from all the information the film delivers, but every moment is worth it. It is all framed with an expert hand, and it is anchored by the very powerful work by Jolie and the rest of an amazing cast that brings to life emotions such as madness, anger, pain, sorrow, and many times, disbelief that humans can be capable of such terrible actions.

The film contains amazing production values, as we are taken back to an era that doesn't exist anymore. The recreation of the time Los Angeles was on its way to being a real city is incredible, as we see it before it fell apart and spread all over a gigantic geographical area, losing its identity. The musical score is a sweet melody that hints at the love and pain themes in the film, and there are some moments bound to become classic, as children tell the stories that adults might not want to face or believe.

All in all, "Changeling" may be very difficult to sit through, but it is not less impressive, effective or good than any of the last five films Eastwood has made. As a matter of fact, it's just one masterpiece from the man who could teach Hollywood a few lessons.
Grueling and scary search for truth.9/10
Changeling - In 1928, Single mother Christine Collins (Angelina Jolie) returns home one day to discover her nine-year-old son, Walter, is missing. She calls the police and, after enduring a grueling 24 hours, they search for her son. But the boy they return to her is not her son. After confronting corrupt city authorities, Collins is vilified as an unfit mother and sent to an asylum.

This is a grueling film to watch. I have not felt this hideous since North Country, a film which also dealt with misogyny within the power structure. Women are treated as fragile, emotional, and not believable. This film tackles corruption to boot, as the LAPD is accused of being a gang of thugs that answer to no one. Eastwood is old school with the violence, understanding that the mind can fill in the very brutal gaps.

Angelina Jolie delivers another great performance. But unlike A Mighty Heart, this film actually deserves her presence. I don't think she really should have so much press coverage, but there is definitely reason for her acclaim as an actress. The situation her character goes through is so surreal and the film captures it perfectly. It gives you chills from the second Christine is given this pretender to raise and rarely lets up. And if for one moment you tell yourself "It's just a movie" as I tried to, this s*** actually happened. Characters were composited or changed, a disclaimer at the end states, but the events were the same.

An odd praise goes out to Jason Butler Harner, who plays Gordon Northcott, a kidnapper and murderer of many children. He has played one of the monsters of everyone's nightmares to perfection. Also of note is Jeffrey Donovan for his portrayal of J. J. Jones, corruption personified. Jones is a man able to whisk people away to asylums with no need of warrants. Scary indeed.

Changeling shares a theme with several of Clint Eastwood's other films. Unforgiven and Flags of Our Fathers come most readily to mind. His lesson concerns truth and lies, and exposing the hypocrisy of falsehoods for want of the truth. The truth is rarely pretty, but generally preferable to lies, and will often come to surface, if given enough time. I doubt I will watch this struggle for truth for a long time to come (it's not one for casual viewing), but it's a very good film.

A-
An interesting story told well.5/10
Christine Collins: "The boy they brought back is not my son."

ClintEastwood s knows a good story, and he knows how to tell it on film. Not everything he does is as powerful as his depiction of a dynamic female boxer in Million Dollar Baby, for which Hilary Swank won a best actress Oscar among four for the film. In Changeling he presents another strong woman, Christine Collins, played by the notable Angelina Jolie. Because she is directed to weep at almost every turn and regularly underplay her grit, Jolie won't win accolades, nor will Eastwood rack up the nominations as he frequently does in Oscar season. But his adaptation of the historic Wineville Chicken Murders chills with his perceptions about the capriciousness of crime and the determination of those who choose to fight it.

In a Prohibition-era 1928, Collins gets word that the Los Angeles Police Department is returning her kidnapped eight-year old son. When she sees him at the station, a finely directed sequence showing the forces of motherhood and politics clash, she knows it is not her child. LAPD, needing the good publicity, forces her to take the boy overnight with the logic that she is merely in shock. The rest of this overly long thriller carefully traces the discoveries leading to resolutions and disappointments. Along the way, police corruption is exposed, mental institution incarceration of women is laid bare, and grisly serial murdering is slowly detailed.

Yet in this discursive narrative, Eastwood indulges himself beyond Jolie's annoying crying by gratuitously laboring over the details of an execution. The stark San Quentin setting is ghastly and the villain worthy except for the film's obvious criticism of false mental institution lockup, ironic here because this murderer is clearly deranged enough to be determined unfit for trial.

As in every Eastwood production, the values are first-rate, in this case period costuming and vehicles (those Model T's and trolley cars are beautiful). As in Mystic River, Eastwood knows how to splice family and community together in the struggle against organized crime, from street violence to public service malpractice. The activist preacher Reverend Briegleb (John Malkovich) helps bring the worlds together in his radio broadcasts, Malkovich for once playing good well. Eastwood continues to be the director of choice for depicting crimes and heartaches that strike the common citizen at will.

We all should be as productive in our later years. May he extend well beyond his golf-playing days and into our future.
Best picture?10/10
Summary says it all, this is the most challenging film so far of 2008. Deep and daring, Clint exposes corruption within LAPD in this period piece. Brilliantly executed and finally a performance I appreciate from Angelina. Also stellar performances by John Malkovich, as well as Amy Ryan, Jeffrey Donovan, Michael Kelly, and others. This film drives it home which any parent can appreciate and will remember for some time.

This is not your typical drama, but also a suspense filled thriller that had people in the theater crying, clapping, and closing their eyes.

Still need to see The Wrestler, and The road, but as of October 2008, CHANGELING best picture, and very possible, Best Actress Angelina Jolie.
Interesting period piece9/10
Watching this film is like taking a look back in time. Everything is picture perfect, the beautiful automobiles, the red electric street cars, the telephones, the switchboard station with roller-skating supervisors, the house appliances, and the outstanding clothing, from dresses to hats to police uniforms, everything is meticulously detailed. The story, which we are told is true, is complex and multifaceted. Angelina Jolie, who plays Christine Collins, gives an outstanding performance as a single mother who returns home from work to find that her son is missing. This puts into motion a series of events that exposes the reality of what Los Angeles society was really like in the late 1920's. Corrupt Police, uncaring and self absorbed mental health professionals and the basic premise that people left to their own ambitions will do anything to secure their own prosperity. Although this paints a bleak picture of the human condition, the film show that the actions of a few good men can make a world of difference, John Malkovich as Reverend Gustav Briegleb, is determined to expose the corrupt Police in his radio talk show, Michael Kelly as detective Lester Ybarra, although hampered by his superiors, uncovers what really happened to the boy and the unlikely hero, a powerful attorney who takes her case pro-bono comes to her rescue. If indeed this is a true story, then to see these people stand up to the powers that be is a ray of hope to all of us that there were people who were strong and principled. We can only hope that there are still people like that out there today.