Wednesday, March 11, 2009

REVIEW: Changeling


Year: 2008
Director: Clint Eastwood
Starring: Angelina Jolie, John Malkovich, Jeffery Donovan, Michael Kelly, Gattlin Griffith
Distributor: Universal Pictures
MPAA: Rated R

Mystery movies are probably one of my favorite movie genres, especially when they’re based on true stories. They’re the kind of movies that keep me interested from beginning to end. Having skipped this movie in theatres, I decided to wait for the Blu-ray release instead. And with Hollywood legend Clint Eastwood directing, Oscar winner Angelina Jolie starring and a mystery plot to it, this was a must-see for me.

Plot Outline:
Christine Collins (Angelina Jolie) and her son Walter Collins (Gattlin Griffith) are your typical loving American family living in the 1920s-era Los Angeles. All that changes when Christine comes back from work later than usual and notices that Walter isn’t home and is nowhere to be found in the neighborhood. After reporting her missing son to the LAPD, they conduct an investigation, which attracts national attention. Five months after the disappearance, Walter is supposedly found. What starts out as a disappearance of a boy, soon changes into a plan to take down the LAPD and their corrupt leaders.

I have personally never heard of the story of Christine Collins and her son, and would have probably never bothered with the movie if it didn’t have the cast and director it has. With that said, writer J. Michael Straczynski does a fantastic job with the story. The search for the boy quickly takes off early on in the movie. When Reverend Gustav A. Briegleb is introduced into the movie, the story splits into two parts. One part being the search for the boy and the other being to bring down the LAPD. The movie does an excellent job giving equal time to both parts with a conclusion that also satisfies both parts.

Angelina Jolie plays the main character in the movie, Christine Collins. She does a fantastic job portraying Christine, showing what lengths a mother would go to to find her missing son, even months or years after his disappearance. Next, we have John Malkovich playing as Reverend Gustav A. Briegleb, a person who had dedicated his life to bringing down the corrupted LAPD. He also does a great job portraying his character, although he doesn’t make too many appearances. Jeffrey Donovan plays Captain J.J. Jones; I’m not really a fan of his acting, his acting feels a fake to me and over-dramatized in some, if not all parts.

Let me start by saying that Clint Eastwood and the production team do an excellent job bringing out a living 1920s L.A. The video itself has a sepia-tone feel to it, giving the movie more of a 20s vintage look to it, thanks to cinematographer Tom Stern. Even the Universal logo in the beginning of the movie gets a classic 20s look to it. Details are spot-on and sharp. Grain is minimal throughout the film, being more visible in some parts of the movie than others. Black levels are solid and no detail is lost between the shadows.

I was surprised to find out that Eastwood also composed the musical for the movie. Unsurprisingly, he does a great job with the music. The sound designers did a great job editing the film to give it a more realistic feel, on top of the great visuals. Dialogue is also exceptionally great; I didn’t have to change the volume once throughout the movie, everything was clearly understood and never thought to myself "What did he say?"

With great actors and an amazing director, Changeling does a great job showing the story of Christine Collins and her struggle to find her son and bring down the corrupted LAPD. The picture is outstanding, bringing out a visually great looking 1920s L.A. The audio is just as well done as the picture, with a great musical score.

Grade: B+