Saturday, November 01, 2008

"Changeling" (2008) - Movie Review

It is not an open and shut case when Clint Eastwood takes up a film to direct involving a missing child plot line. It is not a thriller with the grisly visuals to bring in the chills of the evil happenings in the streets and cities we live in. The ambiguity of “based on true story” has been the bone of contention to believe or not to believe which is a never ending turmoil of arguments and debate of the veracity of the content. But to the regular moviegoer, it does not matter. It is yet a nudging factor of “based on” and out here when a film starts with “A True Story”, it means the confidence and it is more than the verisimilitude of the script written by J. Michael Straczynski and reading wiki I was made aware of the effort he put towards to stands by its words.

In March 10th 1928 the son of Christine Collins (Angelina Jolie), Walter Collins (Gattlin Griffith) disappears from their home. The Los Angeles Police Department that time accused of corruption and violence brings back her son after five months. The problem is the rescued kid is not Walter and Captain Jones (Jeffrey Donovan) insists that he is to Collins. Collins is befuddled on what to do and doubts herself. The boy says him as Walter too and she has no other option to keep him for now.

Now if it is thought that the film is to be a fight on the nature of high pumped court scene emerging victorious and her glorious unification of her missing child then it is wrong. It is about Eastwood placing the audience in the character of one thing, doubt. It is not about the doubt of Collins may be not immediately but the vacillation of her son’s status of dead or alive coming later on in the film which prompts it. She gets prayers and assistance from Reverend Gustav Briegleb (John Malkovich) on taking her struggle public. While the cruelty and disposition of the police department especially by Captain Jones and his Chief (Colm Feore) is staged, Eastwood touches on the drama of the belief and the hope.

The film running 141 minutes goes simultaneously on both paths of Collins going through in dealing with the police force in finding her son and another curious Detective Lester (Michael Kelly) following a case about a Canadian boy illegally staying in US. The latter revealing gruesome murders of many children by a serial killer Gordon (Jason Butler Harner) and that leads into something more into the psychology of moving on and having hope for Collins. Eastwood as he does in his films takes the motion of the reality with its time of events happening at its nature of its pace like putting pebbles with tender and care in a decorative glass.

We see Collins with Walter for two days comprising of three to four scenes in total. In those scenes they are not shown at their height of their happiness or sorrow. They are living a day, the “business as usual” day. Irrespective of our believability of the mother-son relationship, those scenes are like watching a neighbour going through his/her day. The people in the streets would come to their porch to look up and may be drop a few lines but the day continues and the life continues. And in a manner we see Collins going on with her life and at the same time not externally showing the angst and agony into accepting the daily things of going on.

“Changeling” as Eastwood’s films are about characters enduring time and emotions. It is about the present decisions and later regrets and lamentations. There are two emotional scenes and one scary which would be unfair to miss talking about. The first one will be the Doctor Steele (Denis O’Hare) examining or rather controlling Collins with a fearing casualness. Collins got to prove her innocence that she is wrongfully put in the psychiatric ward to a man working for the police who brought her here. There is a chilling mind game of how Steele control-freak’s her in a rather appreciative creepy way. Here is some one on the chair having a degree to judge you and already has, sitting whistling and humming tunes to give the terror very much needed. The second one will be final quest of Collins with the killer Gordon. In both the scenes as much as Jolie cuts the emotions open, the characters played by O’Hare and Harner are of immense importance which keeps the scene to its walls and never lets us move away. The scariest scene which I would compare to the basement tour in “Zodiac” is when Detective Lester goes to the ranch the very first time to apprehend the illegal immigrant boy (Eddie Alderson).

“Changeling” is not in the heights of “Letters from Iwo Jima”, “Flags of the Fathers” and “Mystic River” but has a symphony of its own. How Eastwood finds the music for his picture every time spot on? Oh yes, he composes his own. And out here he finds that note and brings that melancholy and hope in when the screen is filled with those from performances. “Changeling” is about many things. It is about police of being enormous social responsibility more than they know of and it is about the doubt, closure and peace a mother struggles to find and move on. “Changeling” is a good film and a better one in times of sloppy films lining up every weekend.

No comments: