At 78, who’s better than Clint Eastwood? The man has released four masterful films in the last five years. And he has another one out in December. Most directors get lazy with old age. Not Eastwood. He’s ripened with glory.
Changeling is the true story about Christine Collins, a single mother whose son as abducted in the late ‘20s. Collins fought a corrupt LAPD system, imposters and serial killers. She was a single, working mother in a time when single, working mothers were very hard to come by.
To be honest, I don’t want to say any more. There is a sudden shift in the storyline about halfway through that people may already know about (it’s not Million Dollar Baby drastic, but it is significant.) So rather than revealing it here, I’ll focus more on the acting and technical proficiency that goes into making an Eastwood film.
Angelina Jolie is fantastic. She embodies the very essence of loss and grief, something she did marvelously just last year in the underrated A Mighty Heart. I can’t say if she is better in Changeling, but I’d say she’s damn close. I believed her intentions in every single scene of the film, it’s a knockout performance.
The supporting players, mostly male, are terrific as well. John Malkovich is convincing as an unselfish pastor, willing to help Christine at any cost. He despises the LAPD and he uses his church influence to magnificently persuade. Jeffrey Donovan does horrific wonders with his slimy LAPD captain; desperate to conceal what he knows is true. Michael Kelly shines as a cop with a clue. Even Amy Ryan shows up as a mental patient with a harsh tongue.
But the real scene-stealer is Jason Butler Harner, an actor I had never heard of. I’m reluctant to say what role he plays but believe me, you won’t be able to get his face out of your head. He's charming yet monsterous. Think Heath Ledger's Joker.
Eastwood uses grim photography and a subtle piano score (by him) to capture the time period. The costumes and makeup are spot on, bleeding with fluid authenticity.
Like his other recent films, Changeling has some hard scenes to watch. They’re meant to disturb and they do a great deal. But be patient, Eastwood respects his audience, he’ll never do you wrong. Just when I thought this movie was over, he kept on going, usually a problem in today’s cinema. But here, I didn’t want the trip down memory lane to end.
I can’t say if this film is better than Mystic River or Million Dollar Baby (although few are to me). What I can say is that Changeling stands on its own. It has a compelling vision that locks you in right away. Enjoy the ride. A