Not My Child
I used to tell Walter, "Never start a fight... but always finish it." I didn't start this fight... but by God, I'm going to finish it - Christine Collins
To be frank I didn't expect to like "Changeling", I had owned the DVD for a while yet it remained in its wrapper because every time I looked at it something put me off. Maybe all the praise it received had made me sceptical, maybe it was the fact it featured Angelina Jolie an actress whose beauty is undeniable but I questioned whether she was right for what appeared to be an emotional story. The one thing I was sure I wouldn't be disappointed by was Clint Eastwood and his talent as a director. But now having finally sat down and watched "Changeling" I have to say it is a surprisingly good movie one which is nicely acted and paced perfectly but more importantly draws you in to a tale of injustice whilst taking us on an emotional journey of anger and sympathy.
10th March 1928 and having been called into work at the last minute Christine Collins (Angelina Jolie - A Mighty Heart) returns home to find her nine year old son Walter (Gattlin Griffith) is missing. Having called the LAPD day's turns into weeks and weeks into months with still no sign of them finding her boy till suddenly after 5 months the LAPD say they have found Walter. As the press gather for an emotional reunion Christine insists the boy they have found is not her son but finds herself being branded a liar and discredited as a mother. Whilst evidence shows the boy isn't Walter and with Rev. Briegleb's (John Malkovich - Eragon) backing Christine still finds that the LAPD will not help especially Captain J.J. Jones (Jeffrey Donovan) who will do anything to keep her quiet. Meanwhile Detective Lester Ybarra (Michael Kelly - Invincible) finds himself in the midst of a grizzly case where abducted children had been taken to a remote ranch and murdered for pleasure.
The strength of "Changeling" is in the story and how it makes you feel because it manages to connect with you on a much deeper level. From the moment that Christine Collins realises that her son has gone missing you instantly sympathise with her, even more so when she reports it to the LAPD and gets little help. And as things move on and her son is supposedly found after 5 months you still feel that sympathy for her because not only is it not her son but the way the LAPD deal with her, pushing her into saying things and making her sound like an evil mother when she says that the boy is not hers.
But then the sympathy for Christine is accompanied by anger a feeling of hatred towards the LAPD and Captain J.J. Jones as he treats her with such contempt. That feeling of hatred continues to increase as he does what ever he feels like to discredit her and remembering that this is based on a true story what happens to Christine thanks to the corrupt LAPD is beyond despicable. Whether or not there is poetic licence in turning this true story into a movie you have to say it effectively gets you to feel emotion.
But "Changeling" is more than just the story of Christine because interweaved into this you have two more stories, that of the Rev. Briegleb who has made it his mission to make public how corrupt the LAPD was and we also have the grizzly story of abducted boys taken to a remote ranch by a man who then kills them with the help of a young boy. These two subsequent stories interweave brilliantly with the story of Christine and again I don't know how much truth there is to what we see but it works. And it works in such away that "Changeling" becomes compelling, you don't want to miss a second in case you miss something be it a revelation or the horrible way Christine is treated. And a big part of why it's compelling is that Clint Eastwood paces all of these storylines perfectly so that each expands at the perfect pace never becoming confusing or over crowded as could have easily been a case from a director who didn't feel for the story.
Now to be honest that star of "Changeling" is the story, it is seriously powerful but I have to say that Angelina Jolie is pretty perfect as Christine. It is through Christine that we feel be it sympathy as we watch her being forced into caring for a boy which she knows isn't her son to the inhumane treatment she suffers as Captain J.J. Jones tries to silence her. And you have to say that Jeffrey Donovan does a first rate job of playing Jones making someone who makes us feel hatred but never becoming a pantomime villain, just a corrupt man in power. And John Malkovich is just as effective as Rev. Gustav Briegleb, maybe at times a little eccentric but still believable as a man who has dedicated his life to trying to bring the corruption in the LAPD to an end.
What this all boils down to is that "Changeling" surprised me as I was sure this would be 141 minutes I would never get back and have nothing to show for it. But it is a very good movie which draws you into the story of Christine Collins and the down right disgusting treatment she had to deal with at the hands of the corrupt LAPD. With the subsidiary storylines of the campaigning Reverend and the grisly case of murdered children it becomes a surprisingly compelling movie which you can't bare to miss a minute of and making you feel sympathy for Christine but also hatred of the corrupt LAPD and in particular Captain J.J. Jones as he tries to silence and discredit her.
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