Changeling: A Tale of Bad Cops - Part II
At the heart of any great story is the perception of a conflict: often the conflict of good versus evil, and, on occasion, the conflict of bad versus worse. In this review and in the review of the first film, "Pride and Glory: A Tale of Bad Cops - Part I," we search for the thesis of these stories - bad cops making people's lives a living hell. In each film, we discover this catalyst but in completely different contexts.
In "Changeling," Director Clint Eastwood sets this film of Christine Collin's resolute search for her abducted son against the backdrop of 1928 Los Angeles. Central to the story is this period in the evolving history of a young city when its police department was ineffective and often corruptible. Shudder the thought that anyone would need their services, especially in the event of losing a child, when their principal purpose in recent history was corruption and failure. That is exactly the position that working mother Christine Collins found herself in, when her fatherless son "went missing."
A thin, haggard Angelina Jolie portrayed the stoic Christine Collins, and let's face it, this was her story. She was in the majority of the scenes as the troubled mother, and when she was not in the scene, you felt her presence. I am always enthralled by her talent, but of late, I have had to suppress the urge to scrape all my coin together to purchase a round trip ticket to Hollywood, find her and stuff some food in her mouth. To make it more palatable, I'd even find a "whole paycheck" grocery, and purchase designer food to make it easier to swallow. Ms. Jolie is an accomplished actress - although, oddly, miscast in this role: completely irrespective of her Oscar nomination.
By all accounts, Christine Collins was a sound, robust woman of quiet spirit and fortuitous tenacity. While Ms. Jolie projects those qualities, her visual impact is wrong for the role. An actress of the quality of Laura Linney would have been better suited for the role. Of course, Director Eastwood thought she was the one to portray such an impactful role, and without question, Clint knows his craft, and I have always been one of his biggest fans - since "Rawhide."
That is why the film get 3 1/2 stars - Clint Eastwood. As a director, just as he was an actor, Clint pays close attention to the details that lend the proper ambiance to every scene. They are not heavy in style - just realism. The projection of the period was masterful and so true in costume, architecture and dialogue. I was impressed in the way Director Eastwood portrayed the manner and the grace of the period and, in particular, the assertive nature of a department of policemen hell-bent on having it their way. When the nature of people is kindness, often the unkind will wade through these lambs in search of an advantage.
Thankfully, an activist Presbyterian minister, Gustav Briegleb, portrayed by the multi-talented character actor John Malkovich, has the gumption to take on the LAPD in his sanctuary and on his radio broadcast. After he became apprised of Ms. Collins predicament, he rushes to her aid and becomes a resolute ally, manifesting the goodness of his congregation with the courage of his calling. His role, in this true depiction of his calling, was to support Ms. Collins in her efforts and to protect her from a corrupt police captain, J.J. Jones, played by Jeffrey Donovan. Screenwriter Joe Straczynski struck the proper tone in the words and nature of the characters on both sides of the good versus evil theme, leaving the audience with no question that those with power exceeded their authority, and for all the wrong reasons.
Director Eastwood spent a good bit of the audience's time to pitch the psychological intensity in the characters that negotiate this sad play into the pathos of its poor players. The movie runs 141 minutes and while the film may appear plodding for some, it needs all this time to tell this bizarre tale, with so many twists, one would hardly believe it was a true story - but it was... and it is well worth your time.
Released February 17, 2009. Rated R.