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Movie Info


R for violent and disturbing content, and language.


Drama, Thriller


October 31, 2008


Angelina Jolie, Amy Ryan, John Malkovich, Jeffrey Donovan, Riki Lindhome


Clint Eastwood


Universal Pictures



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By Belinda Elliott Senior Producer - Clint Eastwood’s Changeling tugs at the heart strings. Perhaps the film, which is both sad and infuriating, would not be so poignant were it not based on a true story.

The film tells the story of Christine Collins, a single mom living in Los Angeles whose 9-year-old son, Walter, disappears. The frantic mom turns to the Los Angeles Police Department for help. Months later, the police department reports that her son has been found alive in another state. They use the mother-son reunion as an opportunity to show off the department’s good work to the press.

But there is a problem. When he arrives, Collins doesn’t recognize the boy and tells the authorities that there has been a mistake. The boy they brought back is not her son. To avoid an embarrassing public relations nightmare for the police department, the authorities ignore her questions telling her that the changes she sees in him are merely a result of his harrowing ordeal.

Though Collins later advises them of the many telling differences between her son Walter and the new boy, the police ignore her repeated declarations that the boy is not hers. If such an egregious mistake was in fact made by the police department, they certainly can’t afford to admit that to the public. As a result, they will go to any lengths to keep the distraught mother quiet including having her committed to a psychiatric ward.

However, Collin’s plight does not go entirely unnoticed. A radio preacher, Reverend Gustav Briegleb (John Malkovich), has spent years reporting the corruption of the LAPD, and he vows to let the public know how she is being treated by them. He also recruits a high-powered attorney to help her as she takes on the police department in court.

Jolie turns in a brilliant performance as Collins. In a role that could easily lend itself to melodramatics, Jolie portrays the heart broken and persistent mother quite naturally without exaggeration. Malkovich also shines in his role as her co-crusader for justice. Another stand-out performance comes from Jason Butler Harner who convincingly plays the film’s creepiest villain.

Despite the many good things about this film, parents should use caution. It’s not a film for children. It is rated R for violent and disturbing content, and one scene in particular stands out as both. There is also a bit of bad language and several instances where characters use God’s name in vain.

Though the movie is fairly long, clocking in at nearly two and a half hours, it never drags. And although it does include a bit of mystery, the film is in no way a suspense thriller.  The movie’s engaging intensity comes simply from the ongoing observation of a group of people whose behavior becomes more and more unimaginable as the plot moves forward.

Not only is the film a moving example of a mother’s unwavering love and perseverance, it also serves as a reminder of how pride and the inability to admit mistakes can lead to trouble. It is for this reason that Scripture warns in Proverbs 16:18, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”

The most infuriating thing about Collins’ story is the way the police refused to take responsibility for the errors they made. If they had, perhaps the tragic story that this film is based on would have had a much different ending.

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