Throughout an illustrious directing career Clint Eastwood has crafted some of the most memorable movies of the last 15 years, movies such as Unforgiven, Mystic River, and Million Dollar Baby. He has won five Oscars, including two for Best Picture, two for Best Director, and the Irving Thalberg award.
In the process the actors he has worked with have been blessed with Academy Awards: Hilary Swank and Morgan Freeman in Million Dollar Baby, Sean Penn and Tim Robbins in Mystic River,and Gene Hackman in Unforgiven.
With his other movie of 2008, Gran Torino, as Director and Actor he has delivered one of the best movies of the year, and one of his own most memorable performances, and now delivers another outstanding movie in Changeling.
Angelina Jolie won an Oscar for Girl Interrupted. Changeling marks her second nomination.
A huge amount of credit for this movie though must go to writer J Michael Straczynski, creator of Babylon 5, who got a call one day, and the caller said: "We're throwing out some old records, and there is something you gotta see." A true story that beggars belief.
Christine Collins' son was kidnapped, and the police returned to her 5 months later a boy who said his name was Walter Collins, but she said he was not her boy. Her protests fall on the deaf ears of Police Capt JJ Jones played by Jeffrey Donovan of Burn Notice. So begins one of the most notorious coverups of an already disreputable police department.
The attention to detail in the story is nothing short of incredible, particularly in the mental hospital scenes, which are very true to life. The psychiatrist excels at twisting her story to make her look nuts, using double binds to manipulate her, you're either lying or you're nuts, simultaneously threatening and cajoling her, with unknown potentially dangerous drugs or electric shock treatments. Threats which he characteristically carries out. Amy Ryan plays the tart with a heart, an ally who explains the system, a small but very important role, and shocking.
Oftentimes the Hollywood idea of a true story takes many liberties with the facts, distorting the actual events. In this case, as far as I can discern nearly everything important is true, including meeting Northcott in San Quentin.
A couple of minor facts have been changed. Her husband was in jail at the time of her son's kidnappping for armed robbery, not the explanation she gives her son. A fact left out of the movie was that she pursued Capt JJ Jones legally for years, won judgments but never got any money out of him.
What is up with Jeffrey Donovan's accent? He occasional lapses into a highly dubious stage Oirish accent, (which he probably got off his Burn Notice ex girlfriend, whose Oirish accent is also highly suspect).
Angelina plays the part very well, neither going for hysteria nor a victim/martyr portrayal which would have ruined the movie. She is more the reluctant crusader, who wins important allies along the way, changing important laws in LA.
Clint Eastwood apparently wrote the music for the movie. The sequence of music with the montages at the end is particularly good. I also loved the performance of the good cop.
Truly this is an outstanding movie. I think you will love it, and I hope this was helpful.