Review: Changeling (2008)

Changeling

Directed by: Clint Eastwood
Starring
: Angelina Jolie, Gattlin Griffin, John Malkovich

Christine Collins is a single working mother residing in Los Angeles during the late 1920s. With her son being her only true source of companionship, Christine is devastated upon learning of his mysterious disappearance one day when she returns from work. After months of searching and seemingly worthwhile efforts put forth by both Christine and the L.A.P.D., a boy is found and promptly returned to our female protagonist, but there’s just one problem: he’s not her son. When Christine begins to repeatedly dispute this, she and newfound supporter Reverend Briegleb fight to expose corruption within the L.A.P.D. and find the whereabouts of her real boy. As obstacles begin to present themselves as a result of their efforts, Christine finds herself backed into many a corner, but her struggle for justice in a time when corruption ran rampant will forever echo throughout history. With this in mind, Changeling is Clint Eastwood’s heartfelt telling of this true story.

I was more or less forced to see this film as a result of a compromise I made with my girlfriend, so needless to say, my expectations weren’t very high. Within the first five minutes though, everything began to take a mild turn for the better, what with Angelina Jolie’s performance benchmarking an otherwise dull first half. John Malkovich provides us with a worthwhile effort as well, but seeing as how I’m not his biggest fan, it was hard not to ponder over how a man by the name of Gustav Briegleb would speak as if Malkovich was born to play the role. As for the rest of the performances, I found myself very pleased with Jason Butler Harner’s portrayal of the demented killer Northcott; it was chilling, to say the least, and if anything, it adds to the already haunting aura the film’s story already possesses.

In terms of the film’s story as a whole, it’s undoubtedly poignant in many respects, but due to some minor flaws present within the writing and, at some points, Eastwood’s directing, Changeling suffers from a lack of focus. This isn’t to say that the events that take place throughout the film aren’t necessary; they are, it’s just that an apparent adherence to the details surrounding both the reclamation of Ms. Collins’ child and the halting of corruption within the L.A.P.D. was a little much for me. More specifically, it brings about a sort of fight for attention between the two: something that’s forgivable to an extent thanks to Jolie’s excellent performance.

Writing aside, Changeling is presented beautifully in its natural element; capturing the essence of the late 1920s brilliantly thanks to some above average cinematography and set design. These in conjunction with a simple, yet appropriate score give the film just the right feel from start to finish. However, such beauty can’t stop Changeling from being exceptionally long-winded in the long run; at a whopping 2 hours and 22 minutes, I couldn’t help but think that nothing could essentially save this film from itself in this respect.

All in all, Changeling is a respectable piece of filmmaking. Despite being the most poignant film of its kind in recent memory and some stellar performances, it ultimately suffers from a lack of focus and an unnecessarily long runtime in this regard. In the end, it’s easy to compare both of Eastwood’s 2008 directorial efforts and find that one may appeal to a viewer substantially more than the other which, in my case, results in a certain fondness of Gran Torino‘s low-budget feel and simple, more appealing premise. However, If you’ve a certain fondness for the true story scene, fantastic performances and some high production standards, Changeling is most likely your cup of tea.

Rating: 6/10

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