Keeping with this week’s theme of bad titles for great films, I take a look back at “Changeling,” a Clint Eastwood film that I would bet many people still haven’t seen and one easily found on DVD at your local retail outlet or online at Netflix.com. Even though Clint has followed this 2008 film with three other great hits, I still view this as one of his most triumphant pictures to date, thanks to the gripping true story that stays with you long after the closing credits.
Based on a true story, all be it chiseled down a bit, this one follows the 1928 case of Christine Collins (Angelina Jolie) and her missing 9-year-old boy, Walter Collins (Gattlin Griffith). It all began one Saturday after Christine arrived home from work to an empty house, one without her son. After searching the neighborhood, she calls the police, who tell her she must wait 48 hours before they will come out to file a report. Turns out most kids come back within the 48-hour time frame, this according to the LAPD. Some 36 hours later, the police show up and file the report, beginning their search of Walter. Five months later, she gets the call that her son is alive and will be on the next train into town. But, when she arrives at the train station and is introduced to who she thought was her son, she immediately tells LAPD Capt. J.J. Jones (Jeffrey Donovan) this boy was not her Walter. Not willing to accept this answer, Jones convinces Christine to “go along with it” telling her she that this was her son and that she must be confused. It was then this story of truth and lies turned ugly, especially when an unknown accomplice and victim by association came forward, further twisting this story so tight, that you can’t help but be intrigued when the truth does finally get untangled.
For all those people that think Angelina Jolie is just some female action star, this role is for you. And after watching her in this, pick up “A Mighty Heart,” another dramatic turn by the often misunderstood actress who can be found in the upcoming film “The Tourist.” Here she nails the part of a grieving mother who has lost her son and as challenging as it might have been, Jolie made sure to keep with the times and at no point overplayed the drama inside her all-too convincing 1920s apparel. In fact, there were moments where you forgot you were watching Angelina Jolie, which speaks volumes on her transformation into the character, something she doesn’t always get credit for. Just about equaling that intensity every step of the way was Jeffrey Donovan who made his presence known convincingly with a side of swagger, ensuring you hated his character over and over. And finally, there was the great John Malkovich, who simply wasn’t around enough. And John Malkovich is the guy that will sit back and take over a scene, without saying three words as he just has this way about him that allows you to see right into his character.
In that all too familiar way, Clint Eastwood quickly brings you into the age within this film, yet gingerly making sure you appreciate what those times were about and how unusual it was for a woman to fight the way Christine Collins (Angelina Jolie) did. And what I have always liked about Eastwood is how he never attempts to brighten up the truth. If it’s dark, he’s going to shoot it that way, ensuring you get the full extent of what’s going on and what he’s trying to show. Most directors simply can’t let the script play itself out and be able to show what Clint can do from behind the camera. And even though Clint’s films tend to drag along, which was no different here, he manages to keep you interested throughout, somehow switching up camera shots at just the right moment. As great of an actor as he is, I think his true passion comes from behind the camera and how well he can bring out human nature, no matter what the subject matter might be.
For more DVD reviews by Marcus, click here
To find out when and where “The Tourist” is playing this Friday, click here