Changeling (2008)

DailyView: Day 361, Movie 513

I have generally found Clint Eastwood directed films to be hit or miss. However, when they hit, they hit big time. That is the case with Changeling, the 2008 drama focused around a true story of the 1928 Wineville Chicken Coop Murders, the disappearance of the son of Christine Collins and the rampant police corruption in the LAPD at the time.

Angelina Jolie gives a stunning performance as Christine Collins, a woman whose son disappeared and was missing for six months. Then, the police discovered the boy and brought him back to his mother. The only problem was that once reunited Christine told the police that the boy was not her son, Walter. The police insisted that he was and that he’d been through trauma and that she just did not recognize the boy. She was in shock, they said. She took the boy home, but further physical traits supported her suspicion that this boy was not her son.

Christine approached Captain J.J. Jones (Jeffrey Donovan) about her doubts, insisting that the boy was not Walter. Jones did not believe her and began to accuse her of being an unfit mother. Rev. Gustav Briegleb (John Malkovich) picked up the story and began to support Christine, encouraging her to fight for justice. Christine went to the papers and, because of this, wound up being thrown into an insane asylum by the police.

This movie was excellent and does an amazing job of creating emotion among the viewer. It is not just sadness for the disappearance of Walter and Angelina Jolie’s stirring performance, but also the anger that it builds up over the behavior of the LAPD at the time and the use of the mental asylum to do its dirty work. The cruelty is unimaginable for people who are meant to help and aid others.

Jason Butler Harner was outstanding as well as Gordon Northcott, the man behind the Wineville Chicken Coop and the man who may have killed Walter. He played this man with an abandon and an almost carefree attitude that made him even more frightening. The young actors involved were also very solid. Eddie Alderson, who played Sanford Clark, the boy forced to help Gordon Northcott, Gattlin Griffith, who played Walter Collins, and Asher Axe, who played David, a boy who escaped from the chicken coop with Walter’s help.

The film was beautifully shot and used its time frame wonderfully to fully tell its story. It was 2 hours and 20 minutes long, but the film did not drag on at all, paced well. The final version of the film had plenty of amazing craft to it and it is one of the better directed films of Eastwood’s catalogue.

Changeling was an unbelievable story that was able to connect to the outrage of the time.

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