The Changeling (Rated R) Rated 4 Stars
   

    We begin our journey in the parking lot this week, which seems suspiciously crowded for a pre-dinner show. A dull roar greets me as I wander towards the cinema, only to realize my horrendous mistake…High School Musical 3 has drawn every tween from Hope Mills to Spring Lake to the very theater I am trying to find my way into. I barely make it through the overstimulated throngs to my little theater in the back, which is surprisingly packed with people. Yes, after its inauspicious debut last week, The Changeling (141 minutes) continues to climb up the charts. Continued interest in the film is due in no small part to the quality of Angelina Jolie’s acting, although I still want to force feed her cheeseburgers whenever I see her skeletal profile.   
    {mosimage}The title of this Clint Eastwood directed flick refers to various legends in which a child is stolen away from its parents and replaced with soulless fairy spawn. The film itself is a nice counterpoint to Mystic River, a film about violence and children, which Eastwood also directed. The film includes fine attention to period details, and most of the facts of the case on which the story is based are accurately depicted. Of course, it is Hollywood, so some characters are composites, and some scenes are perhaps a touch more dramatic than real life. In a nod to realism, there is a very nice touch of ambiguity included in the finale, a directorial choice made to leave the audience deliberately unsatisfied.
    J. Michael Straczynski (who also wrote Babylon 5 and is currently scripting World War Z—AWESOME) stuck closely to the facts of the real-life case. The film tells the story of Christine Collins (Jolie), a single working mother in 1920s Los Angeles whose son goes missing while she works. The corrupt LA police department delivers a child to her, but she isn’t willing to exchange her child for a boy she knows isn’t her own — despite the insistence of the police. She tries to go public, but in doing so she threatens the department’s fragile claim to legitimacy, and so they work against her at every turn. When she continues to press for the department to find her son, Chief James E. Davis (Colm Feore) and Captain J.J. Jones (Jeffrey Donovan) conspire to discredit her and conceal their own mistakes. John Malkovich has a nice supporting role as Reverend Gustav Briegleb, the one man who believes in Collins’ and her claims that the police returned the wrong child.
    While the film is tangentially a drama about a missing child, Eastwood uses the story as a jumping off point to explore several larger themes. Especially worth noting is Jolie’s charisma and ability to play a strong woman trapped in a sexist society, who is still determined to defy social conventions and the male power structure.
    Among other things, there is a powerful scene towards the end which works as a powerful argument against the death penalty. It is important to acknowledge that however brutal the scene is meant to be (and it is not east to watch) it still fails to show the extent of the brutality and inhumanity present during state sanctioned executions.
    There is a slight issue with the pacing of the movie, and the courtroom scenes toward the end seem to drag on and on, slowing the pace of an otherwise suspenseful thriller.

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