It turns out that Changeling is much better that Gran Torino, thank goodness.
Based on a ‘true story’ (gawd I hate that phrase), it tells the tale of Christine Collins (Angelina Jolie), whose son Walter (Gattling Griffith) goes missing one day in 1920s Los Angeles. Months later, police reunite mother and son, surrounded by the press… the only problem is that the boy isn’t in fact Walter. What follows is a gripping tale, equal parts mystery and depressing drama. The police either don’t believe Christine or aren’t willing to admit to such a grave mistake, and at first everything she does seems to make matters worse. John Malkovich plays Reverend Briegleb, a media-savvy preacher who takes up her cause – apparently her only ally.
It’s fantastic to see Jolie in a meaty role once more. As effective as she was in films such as Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and Wanted, she doesn’t often get a chance to flex her acting muscles. Most may struggle to remember that she won an Oscar for her supporting performance in Girl, Interrupted (and completely deserved it, too) when they’re seeing her in such dross as Mr. and Mrs. Smith and Taking Lives, but it’s gigs like this in which her skill truly comes through. Christine is determined yet almost completely powerless in a male dominated society that wields the word ‘hysterical’ threateningly whenever a woman rallies against injustice. Much of the film is deliberately frustrating, as we see her efforts to find her son derailed and ridiculed at every turn.
Eastwood seems to have spent many years making up for the right wing agenda set by films such as Dirty Harry, and Changeling is definitely a film that examines some of the more overt sexism prevalent back then. The film edges further into thriller territory – and gets a lot darker – as we find out just what happened to young Walter, but never missteps along the way.
The only major flaw with Changeling (aside from the distinct lack of faeries) is the music. Clint Eastwood is responsible yet again for the inappropriately dull score that repeats the same musical cue over and over again. He really needs to stop having a hand in his films’ music, because this has happened repeatedly in the last couple of decades, and it always sounds the same. This time, it never gets quite so dire as Kyle Eastwood’s soundtrack for Gran Torino, which featured his dad SINGING over the end titles (they had to find something to rhyme with Torino, for crying out loud), but it really detracts from the film overall.
Changeling is a great period thriller, and whilst it doesn’t really beg a repeat viewing, it certainly shows that Clint hasn’t entirely lost the plot.Rating: