Director: Clint Eastwood
Changeling appears to be a straightforward period kidnapping mystery with an intriguing true story twist, where Angelina Jolie plays an Angeleno in the 1920’s whose missing son is claimed to be found by the LAPD, only the kid they give back to her isn’t her kid. But that’s not even the half of this 140-minute movie, in which these initial events serve as a launching point to explore police corruption, the suppression of women, the emotional effectiveness of capital punishment, and various other points relating to the rights of civilians and the plight of children.
In other words, it’s rather meandering, which is only part of its troubles — Changeling is also quite black-and-white in terms of character portrayals (I seriously expected at some point for the good guys and bad guys to don white and black hats) and conventionally old-fashioned in playing out many of its scenes. The movie practically begs its audience to boo and hiss at the villains while cheering for our heroes’ every little triumph. In that sense, it was actually fairly entertaining, but neither did I feel I could take much of it seriously after a while.
Jolie is surprisingly given little to do, since her character is really just a simple middle class working every-woman — there’s nothing about her that distinguishes her as a personality. It adds to the general shallowness of the film and its exploration of its concerns, and yet it’s that shallowness that also somehow makes it watchable — the glossy production, the classy actress, the chilling and gruesome turns, the belief in ultimate justice, and the continuing underscored tragedy. Frankly, if Clint Eastwood added some arias, this might’ve made a pretty good opera.