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Changeling (2008)

A movie directed by Clint Eastwood

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Systems, Interrupted

  • Jan 12, 2009
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In his 2008 film "Changeling", director Clint Eastwood presents a ghoulishly and somberly hued portrait of a flapper-era City of Angels that keeps his audience white-knuckled and frequently aghast at yet another chronicled onslaught against basic human decency. Revisiting themes of corrupt misused power, an overall erosion of values and the resulting injustice against the innocent that he has explored in films like `Mystic River (Widescreen Edition)' and "Unforgiven," Eastwood creates a microcosm of a larger failed system by focusing on a sad chapter in LA history that revolves around the kidnapping of a young boy. Eastwood interjects a more brutal reality to the already horrendous events that transpired when single mother Christine Collins, a telephone operator supervisor, (a bruised-eyed and ruby-red-rouged lipped Angelina Jolie) discovers that her son, Walter, is missing. The already press-beleaguered police become involved albeit condescendingly,--Jefferey Donovan's performance as the snaky police captain in charge ruthlessly epitomizes how heady a cocktail of pressure from above mixed with the brain swell of power can be--producing another boy in lieu of the missing Walter just to give press closure to the case. When Christine repeatedly insists that the found boy is not her son, she is instantly dismissed as an incompetent, irresponsible mother who during the months the child was missing supposedly became too accustomed to her newfound freedom. The police captain rounds up a group of expert doctors to further his cause and to add insult to injury to this all too true bureaucratic straight-jacket in which Christine finds herself bound.

Eastwood drives the film with all the lead-footed ferocity of a Mack Truck crazy with speed. Christine's role as single working mother transmutes to that of emerging female individualist who by reason of her gender is either considered as a trespasser on male employment territory or a hysterical troublemaker requiring sedation to be kept under authority respecting control. As one of the little people who takes responsibility seriously, paying her civic and societal dues with a happy sense of regularity and accomplishment, she discovers that instead of the steadfastness and support she expects from a system for which she has bolstered and paid she receives more than just a negative dividend along with the remnants of her middle class ideals. Her understanding of this reaches a grizzly climax in a bleak cruelly run hospital for the insane and for women that have been incarcerated by the police under the insidious no-questions-asked Code 12.

Barring lobotomy, Eastwood pushes all this white-coated terror to the limit--masochistic hospital staff wielding water hoses and administering humiliation-inducing syphilis tests leads to no-win double-talking analysis sessions with sadistic doctors, unnecessary sedatives and the ultimate One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (Penguin Classics) depravity, electric shock treatment. Phew! I had to shut my eyes more than once--all that white Gothic starchiness induced a snow-blindness I felt like a kick in the gut.

Meanwhile back at the ranch--and what a ranch--in what was once called Wineville in Riverside County--the only ethical representative of the Los Angeles police department investigates a tip regarding the deportation of a minor to Canada and discovers the horrific murder factory of child-killer Gordon Northcott. Here Eastwood steps heavily on the brakes of what up until then had been a fast-moving almost out of control vehicle depicting every depraved manner of humiliation conceivable directed at controlling the drones of the middle class. This break in the action at first seems like the eye of a hurricane, however the film although brutal in its scenes of child killing and capital punishment never hits the mark again as it does in the first ninety minutes.

Angelina does the role of Christine justice. Visually beautiful she relentlessly acts up a storm with just a residual hint of some of her former revenge minded characters (think the scary cold-hearted assassin Fox in "Wanted (Two-Disc Special Edition)") to remind the audience that this is still Jolie that it is watching. John Malkovich plays the helpful radio-minister, Gustav Briegleb, with his usual adept precision while most of the other characters formulate a body of different archetypical stereotypes that are frightening in their bleak presentation.

Bottom line? Clint Eastwood's Changeling is fraught with a disturbing energy that bombards the viewer with a stereoscope of images from another era that suggests being back in the day is no better than being around now. Depicting institutions that supposedly are designed to support and enrich the public as greedy citadels of misused power sadly reminds us of our faith in financial institutions that betray rather than pave the way for responsibly planned middle class futures. Recommended with the warning of many brutally depicted scenes of inhumanity towards the insane, child abduction and killing, and capital punishment. Eastwood chills with a razor-honed austerity that is a far cry from the sun-kissed star-studded celebrity of today's LA.
Diana Faillace Von Behren

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October 21, 2010
Wonderful review, Jeffrey Donovan was great in this.
More Changeling reviews
review by . April 13, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
You really have to go a ways to lead with Angelina Jolie and be directed by icon Clint Eastwood, and yet create this lame of a film.  Considering the incredibly disturbing nature of the subjects covered, I was beyond let down by the end when I was not only NOT moved to tears, but totally apathetic.  I have a young daughter, and hesitated to watch this film for fear of becoming even more paranoid about her ever coming in harms way.  Yeah, well... that would require the film touching …
review by . August 14, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
      CHANGELING      I went into this film for only one reason and it had nothing to do with Clint Eastwood, Ron Howard, or Angelina Jolie. I watched this for Jeffrey Donovan since I am a huge fan of his especially his show with Bruce Campbell "Burn Notice", possibly the best show on today. So I was excited to learn that he was in this and had a major role in it as well. Still with that a side every one involved with this film did an excellent job …
Quick Tip by . August 14, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
This was a wonderful film that I think was snubbed by the Academy but what ever, this film is great with out them. I recommend this flick to any and every one that enjoys a good movie. Normally I would say something like this may not be for every body but this time I will say, every body go get this. Everyone in this film and every one that worked on it should be proud, a marvelous piece of film making based on real events.
Quick Tip by . July 26, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
It was really interesting to see Angelina Jolie in such a fragile role and she did it very well. The way she toughens throughout the story also feels genuine. The wider subject treated in the film was also a piece of history I was intrigued to learn about since I have lived and worked previously in LA's Inland Empire.
Quick Tip by . July 19, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Angelina Jolie at her best. The story is moving and will make you just mad. I loved it
review by . July 04, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: Outstanding performance by Angela Jolie; great supporting cast.     Cons: A little slow at times.     The Bottom Line: A little plodding at times Changeling is a great film and I have little problem recommending it.     Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie''s plot. We Americans like to think that our justice system is the best in the world. That our rights, enshrined as they are in the under the Bill of …
review by . September 14, 2009
Changeling is the story, based upon actual events, of Christine Collins' quest to find her young son Walter, missing without a trace. It is also the story of appalling corruption in the government and police department of 1920's-'30's Los Angeles, which apparently has been a significant problem of long-standing. A third subplot involves a serial child killer who may or may not have had contact with Walter, and a forth presents a horrific view of the psychiatric ward in a local hospital.     Ange …
review by . March 04, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
The police finding the wrong boy and insists that it is someone's son…mistakes like this don't happen, do they? Well, apparently they did in Los Angeles back in 1928 and this fact is actually very disquieting. "Changeling" is a film based on the experiences of a woman named Christine Collins and on the murders of a small town outside L.A. called "Wineville". Co-produced by Clint Eastwood and written by one of my favorite writers, J. Michael Straczynski (Babylon 5, Midnight Nation, Thor), the film …
review by . March 16, 2009
Christine Collins: The boy they brought back is not my son.       Short Attention Span Summary (SASS):     1. A single mother's only son is missing   2. It takes five months for the Police to reunite the mother and the boy who said "I am the one"   3. But she knew that the kid was not her son   4. The Police Captain insisted: "Don't go Changeling. She'll love you just the way you are"   5. But she didn't   6. …
review by . March 09, 2009
When you watch a historical based true story like the Changeling it's hard to know for sure if the actors are channeling the spirits of those they are portraying. (or if their performace is bad) That being said both Angelina Jolie (Oscar nomination) and Jeffery Donovan do solid jobs at best as they help recreate a story about a real killer in the late 1920s. Clint Eastwood as director and producer kept this film on track as do strong acting performances from John Malkovich and Michael Kelly.  …
About the reviewer
Diana Faillace Von Behren ()
Ranked #167
I like just about anything. My curiosity tends to be insatiable--I love the "finding out" and the "ah-ha" moments.      Usually I review a book or film with the … more
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About this movie


Changeling is a 2008 American drama film directed by Clint Eastwood and written by J. Michael Straczynski. Set in 1928 Los Angeles, the film is based on the true story of a woman who is reunited with her kidnapped son—only to realize he is an impostor. After confronting the city authorities, she is vilified as an unfit mother and branded delusional. The incident was related to the Wineville Chicken Coop Murders, a kidnapping and murder case uncovered in 1928. Changeling explores themes such as feminine disempowerment and corruption in political hierarchies. It was made by Imagine Entertainment and Malpaso Productions for Universal Pictures.

Clint Eastwood’s mastery as a director, established over the past decade and a half withUnforgiven,Million Dollar Baby,Letters from Iwo Jima, and others, continues withChangeling, a 2008 offering based on a shocking but all-too-true story about child abduction and police corruption in 1920s Los Angeles. Single mother Christine Collins (Angelina Jolie, excellent in a role with somewhat limited parameters) finds her 9-year-old son, Walter, missing when she returns home from work one day. She files a report with the Los Angeles Police Department, an outfit that was wildly unpopular at the time (in his regular radio broadcast, a crusading pastor played by John Malkovich decries the force as "violent and corrupt," adding that "our protectors are our brutalizers"). When a child roughly matching Walter’s ...
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Director: Clint Eastwood
Genre: Mystery
Release Date: October 31, 2008
MPAA Rating: R
Screen Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
DVD Release Date: February 17, 2009
Runtime: 141 min
Studio: Universal Studios
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