‘Changeling’ is not what you’d expect
Vail CO, Colorado
VAIL, Colorado ” A serial killer who captures, cages and kills little boys, a corrupt police force affectionately known as the “gun squad,” crazy women in a psych ward, an execution by hanging and bright red lipstick that never seams to fade or streak no matter how much Angelina Jolie cries. These are five things you won’t know you’re getting into based on the commercials for Clint Eastwood’s latest crime-drama, “Changeling.”
Even the film’s title is misleading. Anyone who hasn’t seen the ad campaign might think they’re buying a ticket to a sci-fi monster movie. Thankfully, this movie has a lot more to offer than just another desperate-mother-searches-for-her-kidnapped-son emotion fest.
Based on a true story, “Changeling” opens calmly enough in suburban Los Angeles in 1928. Single mother and telephone operator Christine Collins (Jolie) and her only child Walter (Gattlin Griffith) are shown living very normal lives. One day Christine returns home from work to find her son missing and she frantically attempts to get the police to help her search for her missing kid.
It’s all by the numbers until the police tell Christine, months later, that they’ve found her boy and want to reunite them in front of the press. When Captain Jones (Jeffrey Donovan) brings them together, Christine informs Jones that he’s made a mistake and brought her the wrong kid. Jones, who only wants to avoid bringing any more negative press to the force, kindly tells her that it is her son, and pressures her into taking the impostor home “on a trial basis.”
Things get bizarre from here, and not in a bad way. You won’t see a lot of things coming, and when the credits roll, you’ll feel like you got your money’s worth.
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Eastwood directs and produces conservatively and creates just enough creepy atmosphere and film-noir mood to keep the audience on edge. The attention to the details of the period are incredible, but at times it’s frustrating to watch just how slow law enforcement moved back then and how much more difficult it was to communicate before Internet, iPhones and Amber Alerts.
John Malkovich is excellent (and not his usual over-the-top self) as the Reverend Gustav Briegleb, a crusader against the LAPD’s incompetence and corruption who joins forces with Christine to expose their latest mistake.
Most importantly, this film shows what it was like to be a woman in an era when equal pay for equal work wasn’t even on the radar yet, when single mothers were often labeled whores, and a women’s right to vote was still very fresh. Jolie plays her reserved, strong-woman character perfectly, never taking her emotion over the top ” which will likely get her an Oscar nod. “Changeling” really isn’t anything special in the genre, but it does offer some dark surprises and good performances along the way that make it better than many crime dramas in recent years.
High Life writer Charlie Owen can be reached at 970-748-2939 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Directed by: Clint Eastwood.
Starring: Angelina Jolie, John Malkovich, Jeffrey Donovan.
3 stars of 4