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CHANGELING – Gripping tale of a true-life drama

Starring: Angelina Jolie, Colm Feore, John Malkovich and Jeffrey Donovan
Director: Clint Eastwood
Rated: MA15+

CLINT Eastwood turned 78, May 2008.

His films made during his 70s have been impressive and award-winning.

Changeling was one of 2008’s ten best according to the National Board of Review and Angelina has received several nominations as Best Actress.

Based on actual characters, including the mother at the centre of an abduction and the mayor of Los Angeles, the police chief, police captains, detectives, prominent lawyers, a killer and a Presbyterian minister, Gustav Briegleb, who used the new medium of radio to attack the police for corruption, the film starts domestically, moves to the abduction crisis, police incompetence and brutality, mental institutions, abuse and killing of children to courts, investigations and perspectives on capital punishment.

Quite some contents for a film even at two hours twenty minutes.

The setting is LA 1928.

Cityscapes, streets and homes, trams, buildings, costumes and décor are all impressively used to create the atmosphere of the times.

While the newspaper media play an important role in information, protest (and headline seeking), it is the new media of radio that is making a difference.

The police chief of the times, James Davis (Colm Feore) ran a tight ship that employed violence against criminals and acted unscrupulously and without warrant against the rights of ordinary citizens.

The Reverend Brieglib (John Malkovich) denounces the authorities with names and details every day and takes up the cause of Christine Collins whose nine-year-old son, Walter, disappears.

Christine Collins is played convincingly by Angelina Jolie in a substantial role.

The film’s title indicates what goes wrong.

Her son is not found. She persists and the police won’t listen to her, especially the captain who is irritated by her and commits her (Jeffrey Donovan).

Another detective, sent on a routine enquiry to a ranch outside Los Angeles, eventually discovers a series of killings.

As Christine, with the help of the Reverend and a growing number of sympathisers and protestors in the streets, mounts civil suits against the police, the film deals with the trial of the killer and the cross-examination of the police.

Just when we are thinking the film will end, there are additions. This happens several times.

Eventually, the fine screenplay by Michael Straczynski, the ever skilful and unobtrusive direction of Clint Eastwood and the fine performances bring the film to a satisfying end.

And, then one remembers that only 20 years later there was the Black Dahlia murder and 25 years later the world of LA Confidential – and in the 90s, the Rodney King event.


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