Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Changeling


Changeling, a 2008 movie by Clint Eastwood, is one of the finest films I’ve watched in recent times. It’s a lengthy and complex, yet consistently gripping drama, and one of the most remarkable things about it is that it is based – I gather, quite closely – on real-life events.

The setting is Los Angeles, and the story opens in 1928. Angelina Jolie plays a hard-working single mother, Christine Carter, who returns one day from her office to find that her nine-year old son Walter has vanished without a trace. Some time later, the police find a boy who says he is Walter. Amidst a fanfare of publicity, Christine and Walter are reunited. The only snag is that the mother denies that the boy is her son.

The police are insistent, and when she protests, she is treated as delusional. We gather that the LAPD of the time was up to its ears in corruption, and there are shocking scenes when the Christine is treated as a psychopath and locked up in a dreadful asylum. But events take a sudden turn when a cop who is not mired in corruption is told a horrifying story by a young boy. It emerges that a madman called Northcott has been kidnapping, abusing and killing boys at his remote ranch. The question then is - was Walter one of the victims?

I thought Jolie’s performance was excellent, and the film as a whole was moving and memorable. The jazz-influenced music sounded as though it might have been written by John Barry, but I was taken aback to discover that it was composed by Eastwood himself. Truly, a man of many talents.

11 comments:

harriet said...

I too loved this film -- very impressive in every way.

Philip said...

Martin,I think the title is 'Changeling', no article, and so not to be confused with a ghostly movie starring George C. Scott. I must take a look at this one. It should be a real shocker, for the actual events of 1928 -- the police and bureaucratic corruption more than the murders, in a sense -- were truly horrific. One of the fine things about Eastwood is that he does not feel a need for furbelows, so I doubt not that he has been faithful to those events in good measure. They may haunt people more than the goings-on in the George C. Scott movie.

Bernadette in Australia said...

I agree, Eastwood is a truly surprising human being which is so rare for a Hollywood type. And yes this is a top notch movie. Jolie is actually a fine actor, she was also excellent in another 'based on true events' story - A Mighty Heart - which is based on the story of Wall St Journal reporter Daniel Pearl who was kidnapped and killed in Pakistan in 2002. Jolie plays his wife in the movie and does a great job there too.

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks for these comments. Philip, you are right (not for the first time!) and I have edited accordingly! Bernadette, I'll definitely look out for that other Jolie film.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

In an example of my wimpyiness as a reader/viewer, I did avoid watching this one because of the subject matter. My imagination goes wild and it's so easy to put my own children in a dangerous position in my head...makes for difficult viewing for me.

Elizabeth
Mystery Writing is Murder

Margot Kinberg said...

Martin - Like Elizabeth, I'm a mother, so it was frighteningly easy to imagine myself in the Jolie role. Still, I saw the movie and am very, very glad I did. It is, as you say, a fine film. It's suspenseful, even gripping, and it's dramatic without being melodramatic. Jolie turns in a fine performance, and yes, Eastwood's direction is terrific.

For me, one of the many things that worked well in this film was the sense of history - and the knowledge of the real story behind the film. Right now, I live in California, not more than a couple of hours from where the original crimes on which the story is based took place. One can read archived stories of the crimes and learn about the "real" story rather easily here, and it's clear that Eastwood and the rest of the team "did their homework."

curzon group said...

I haven't seen Changeling, but Clint Eastwood directed and starred in one of my favourite films of all time - Play Misty for Me. I know very little about the film world, but I'd stick my neck out and claim that this film is iconic. It certainly made a huge impression on me, anyway. I've watched it several times and the tension never lessens.
LEIGH RUSSELL (post on Curzon blog 15th December)

Martin Edwards said...

Elizabeth and Margot - it's curious that 'children in jeopardy' stories have become so popular, isn't it?
Margot, I've looked at the internet accounts of the source story, and I can see why Eastwood was intrigued.

Martin Edwards said...

Leigh, I share your enthusiasm for Play Misty for Me. A great film.

seana said...

Sounds like one I wouldn't have been able to handle it in the theatre, but I will definitely look for it to watch at home. Funny I don't know it, as it's set right on my home turf. My mother would have been a small child in Santa Monica at the time of the story--I wonder if she remembers anything about it. I'll have to ask. She lives in the same town as Eastwood does now actually, and admires him, so the subject will interest her I think.

Uriah Robinson said...

Angelina Jolie is superb in both Changeling and in A Mighty Heart. Sometimes a celebrity status can obscure an artists real abilities as an actor.