Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Movies: Changeling

Disturbing But Powerful

Changeling is set in 1920s L.A. and deals with the story of Christine Collins and her son Walter who goes missing only for the police search to return the wrong boy.  When Christine points out this blatantly obvious mistake to the police, rather than admit their mistake they go to extreme lengths to avoid the embarrassment of their mistake going public.

The story is told with an unusual choice of focus because although it deals with Christine Collins’ son going missing, rather than concentrate on those directly responsible for his disappearance, it instead focuses on the actions of the police and how they see the whole thing as a PR opportunity, rather than a missing child and a distraught mother.  The fact that Changeling is based on a true story only makes the way the police deal with Walter Collins’ disappearance, firstly with initial indifference, and then subsequently in an increasingly corrupt and ruthless manner, all the more shocking and disturbing.

However, although the primary spotlight falls on the police and their extreme and unjust treatment of Christine Collins, as the movie progresses the wider details of the story are eventually revealed.  All in all this is quite a complex movie with a lot of plot to cover and therefore it’s not surprising that it clocks in at over two hours.  The various angles to the story are all given the screen time they require and the editing team of Joel Cox/Gary D. Roach have done a skilled job of fitting the various pieces together in a way which delivers the story to the viewer at a perfect pace and in a thoroughly gripping manner.

As for the acting, Angelina Jolie is exceptional in a very intense and challenging role.  The period setting is recreated superbly and Angelina shows her adaptability as she seems to fit in with that era perfectly.  To give credit where credit is due though, the entire cast put in excellent performances and all play their part in retelling a very powerful and emotionally heavy story.  Given the subject matter there aren’t too many upbeat moments, but some of the courtroom scenes deliver some satisfying moments as the actions of the corrupt are eventually brought into the public light.

It’s hard to go into much more detail without revealing too much of the plot, but Changeling is a movie which will fire up your emotions right to their limits and get you deeply angry at the injustice Christine Collins faced and the system that existed which allowed the corruption and injustice to continue for so long without accountability.

It’s also a disturbing movie, so despite the exceptional performances and the powerful directing, on the other hand if you’re easily upset then there are still arguments not to watch it.  The subject matter left me with a slightly numb feeling at the horrific events Christine Collins had to go through, but if you can stomach the grisly details then Changeling is a must-see movie.  In fact I had originally planned to watch this movie in two sittings, but that proved to be a na├»ve plan as the movie very quickly had me gripped and once you start watching you won’t be able to tear yourself away until it’s finished.

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